Osama bin Laden Son-in-Law 'Stoic' After Conviction on All Counts in Terror Case

Suleiman Abu Ghaith Guilty in Al Qaeda Conspiracy

Guilty as Charged: Defense lawyer Stanley Cohen discusses case of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, who was convicted of participating in an al Qaeda conspiracy to kill Americans.
getty images
Guilty as Charged: Defense lawyer Stanley Cohen discusses case of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, who was convicted of participating in an al Qaeda conspiracy to kill Americans.

By Reuters

Published March 26, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was found guilty of terrorism-related charges on Wednesday following a three-week trial that offered unusually vivid details of the former al Qaeda leader’s actions in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Abu Ghaith, 48, a Kuwait-born Muslim cleric, faces life in prison after a federal court jury in New York convicted him of conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to provide material support for terrorists, and providing such support.

Jurors took just over one day to reach a verdict in a courtroom that is blocks from the site of the World Trade Center destroyed in the hijacked plane attacks nearly 13 years ago.

Abu Ghaith’s court-appointed lawyer, Stanley Cohen, said there were several issues he would raise on appeal. They include U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s decision to bar testimony from Pakistan-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man the U.S. government accuses of masterminding the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“He was stoic, he was at ease,” Cohen said of Abu Ghaith’s reaction to the verdict. “I think he feels that it was impossible under the circumstances to receive a fair trial.”

The judge scheduled Sept. 8 for sentencing.

Prosecutors had accused Abu Ghaith, one of the highest-profile bin Laden advisers to face trial in a U.S. civilian court, of acting as an al Qaeda mouthpiece and using videotapes of his inflammatory rhetoric to recruit new fighters.

They also said Abu Ghaith knew in advance of an attempt to detonate a shoe bomb aboard an airplane by Briton Richard Reid in December 2001, citing in part an October 2001 video in which he warned Americans that the “storm of airplanes will not stop.”

Lawyers for Abu Ghaith said the prosecution was based on “ugly words and bad associations,” rather than actual evidence that the defendant knew of or joined plots against Americans.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a statement after the verdict, said it bolstered the argument that militants should be tried on terrorism charges in civilian courts, rather than as combatants in military commissions.

That sentiment was echoed by Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security, who attended the trial.

“The federal courts are robust and can handle the numerous challenges that terror trials pose, including witnesses taking the stand and classified material,” she said on Wednesday.

UNEXPECTED TESTIMONY

In a surprising move, Abu Ghaith testified in his own defense, denying he helped plot al Qaeda attacks and claiming he never became a formal member of the group.

He described meeting bin Laden inside a cave in Afghanistan hours after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We are the ones who did this,” bin Laden told Abu Ghaith, according to the defendant’s testimony. Abu Ghaith said he learned of the attacks in news reports.

He said that night, bin Laden asked him what he believed the United States’ response would be.

Abu Ghaith said he told bin Laden that the United States would not rest until it had accomplished two goals: killing bin Laden and overthrowing the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

“You’re being too pessimistic,” bin Laden replied, according to Abu Ghaith.

The Taliban was in fact soon ousted by the U.S. and its allies and bin Laden, a founder of al Qaeda, was killed by U.S. forces in May 2011 at a hideout in Pakistan.

On the day after seeing bin Laden and discussing the attacks, Abu Ghaith testified, he joined a meeting that included al Qaeda’s inner circle: bin Laden and two of his closest lieutenants, Egyptians Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef.

A few hours later, he recorded the first of several videos at bin Laden’s request, declaring that the Sept. 11 attacks were a “natural” result of the U.S. policy toward Muslims worldwide.

But he denied that his intention was to speak or recruit for al Qaeda. Instead, he claimed he was trying to exhort all Muslims to stand up against oppression.

Abu Ghaith married bin Laden’s daughter Fatima years after the Sept. 11 attacks, a fact that was kept from the jury.

Abu Ghaith’s lawyers repeatedly sought to introduce testimony from accused plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed stating that Abu Ghaith had no involvement in al Qaeda’s military planning. The judge rejected those requests, finding that Mohammed, now a prisoner in the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, did not appear to have personal knowledge to back up his claims.

Defense lawyer Cohen also faulted Kaplan for telling the jury on Wednesday morning that he might keep them deliberating past day’s end if they had not reached a verdict by then, calling it “coercive.”

“It sends a message that in the court’s mind this is a no-brainer,” Cohen said.

As in several other terrorism trials held in U.S. civilian courts, the jury remained anonymous.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.