Suleiman abu Ghaith, son-in-law of infamous Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, will spend the rest of his life in jail after being found guilty of conspiring to kill Americans on March 26, 2014. As spokesman for the terrorist group, his voice was one of the first to be heard following the attack on 9/11.
Evidence, deliberation and conviction
Deliberation by a New York jury took just five hours. Suleiman abu Ghaith is the highest ranking Al Qaeda figure to face trial in the United States. He was convicted of three counts: “conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiring to provide support to Al Qaeda and providing support to Al Qaeda,” according to The Guardian newspaper.
Abu Ghaith testified at trial that bin Laden requested he make a recruitment video following the 9/11 attacks, and his voice was clearly heard at the trial, warning on the video that “The storm of airplanes will not stop.” Frames of a video showing the Kuwaiti imam seated next to bin Laden the day following the 9/11 attack were also presented to the jury during the three-week trial in New York City.
Role in the terrorist network
In his closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan emphasized Abu Ghaith’s place within the terrorist network, saying: “Going to that man was the first thing Osama bin Laden did on 9/11 after the terror attacks. The defendant committed himself to Al Qaeda’s conspiracy to kill Americans, and he worked to drive other people to that conspiracy. During the most important period of time in Al Qaeda’s savage history, Suleiman abu Ghaith was Osama bin Laden’s principal messenger. He used his fiery oratory to incite Al Qaeda’s growing army of terror in this war with America.”
Abu Ghaith claims only a “religious role”
Bin Laden’s son-in-law actively participated in the trial, listening to Arabic translations via headphones and taking the stand in his own defense. He noted that he was simply a religious figure, not a terrorist. He stated calmly that he went to bin Laden out of respect as a sheikh, and abu Ghaith’s message as a religious figure was to rise up against oppressors.
He noted, “I didn’t go to meet with him to bless if he had killed hundreds of Americans or not. I went to meet with him to know what he wanted.”
Abu Ghaith’s lawyer, Stanley Cohen, noted the prosecution showed “zero evidence” Abu Ghaith was aware of the conspiracies that he was charged with by the U.S. government and suggested the government was using “fear” to convince the jury to convict.
The video, entitled, “Convoy of Martyrs,” however, was particularly damning evidence. It showed Abu Ghaith narrating while a plane drove into the World Trade Center building, resulting in horrific and jolting imagery it would be hard for jurors to ignore.
Comment by Eric Holder
The jury was made up of nine women and three men, and took place just blocks from Ground Zero, according to the New York Daily News. Abu Ghaith now faces a life in prison.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said of the conviction, “I can imagine no more fitting outcome, and no stronger message to those who would harm our nation and its people. It was appropriate that this defendant, who publicly rejoiced over the attacks on the World Trade Center, faced trial in the shadow of where those buildings once stood.”