Bin Laden’s son-in-law guilty of conspiring to kill AmericansKaren Greenberg in New York Post, March 26, 2014
A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and post-9/11 spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, on charges of being a major player in al Qaeda’s efforts to kill Americans.
Abu Ghaith — the highest-ranking al Qaeda figure to face trial on US soil since the 9/11 attacks — was found guilty by a Manhattan federal jury of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to al Qaeda by inciting would-be Muslim militants to join its cause.
The 48-year-old imam from Kuwait now faces life in prison when he’s sentenced Sept. 8.
“We hope this verdict brings some small measure of comfort to the families of the victims of al Qaeda’s murderous designs,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said afterward.
“Abu Ghaith received a fair trial, after which a unanimous jury rendered its verdict, justly holding him accountable for his crimes,” he added.
As a courtroom deputy read the 12-person jury’s verdict, Abu Ghaith, listening to an Arabic translator through earphones, remained stone-faced. Dressed in a charcoal-colored suit with a white shirt slightly unbuttoned, he smiled briefly as he was escorted out by authorities after spotting a friend from Kuwait in the courtroom.
“He was stoic, at ease,” his lawyer Stanley Cohen told reporters afterward. “He has confidence that this is not the end, but just the beginning.”
Cohen said his client doesn’t believe he got a fair trial and plans to appeal the jury’s decision on several factors, including that he believes jurors weren’t given “correct” instructions and that Judge Lewis Kaplan erred by not allowing alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to testify in Abu Ghaith’s defense.
Cohen also accused Kaplan of “coercing” jurors into swiftly reaching their verdict within six hours of deliberations spread over two days by telling them earlier Wednesday that he might have them “stay late” if they couldn’t reach a verdict by the end of the workday.
“It disempowers persons who could be holdouts,” Cohen said of the judge’s actions.
During the three-week terror trial just blocks from Ground Zero, prosecutors contended the 48-year-old imam from Kuwait willingly became al Qaeda’s “mouthpiece” at bin Laden’s request immediately following the hijacked-airplane attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, demolished a vast section of the Pentagon and left a fourth jumbo jet destroyed in a Pennsylvania field.
They said he spread its “message of hate” against America through a series of audio and videotapes aimed at recruiting militants to join its cause.
In one video, on Oct. 9, 2001, Abu Ghaith threatened that “America must know that the storm of airplanes will not abate.”
But Cohen countered that there was “no evidence” his client played any major role in al Qaeda following the aftermath of 9/11.
He accused prosecutors of seeking to manipulate jurors by showing them a video of World Trade Center devastation and endlessly referencing 9/11, even though Abu Ghaith wasn’t charged in those attacks.
The trial was highlighted by Abu Ghaith shockingly taking the witness stand in his own defense and offering an inside look at bin Laden on the night of the 9/11 attacks, when he summoned the imam to an Afghanistan cave for a meeting and joyfully boasted, “We are the ones who did it.”
Abu Ghaith also denied knowing in advance about the 9/11 attacks or Richard Reid’s botched shoe bomb plot in late 2001, as the feds allege, claiming he only first learned of them through media reports.
He claims he based his videotaped and audio-taped hate-spewing sermons strictly on notes and “bullet points” provided by bin Laden. But prosecutors argued he was no “accidental terrorist” or “puppet.”
He married bin Laden’s eldest daughter, Fatima, about seven years after 9/11.
After sitting through the trial, Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, said she felt it was “efficient and expeditious” and that the guilty verdict was “expected.”
“It means the federal courts are robust and can handle the numerous challenges that terrorist trials pose,” she said.