Bin Laden spokesman pleads not guilty to plot
By The Associated Press
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013, 11:42 a.m.
NEW YORK - A senior al-Qaida leader and son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, captured in Jordan in the past week, pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court in New York to plotting against Americans in his role as the terror network's top spokesman.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was brought into the largest courtroom at the federal courthouse shortly after 10 a.m. and entered the plea through a lawyer to one count of conspiracy to kill Americans in a case that marks a legal victory for President Barack Obama's administration.
Black cuffs bound his hands behind him as he was led into a courtroom with about 80 spectators, mostly journalists, lawyers and court employees. He was bearded and wearing a blue prison uniform. The cuffs were taken off, and he was seated next to his court-appointed lawyer, federal defender Philip Weinstein.
Abu Ghaith was arrested overseas the night of Feb. 28, gave an "extensive post-arrest statement" that totaled 22 pages, and arrived here March 1, Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Cronan said. The prosecutor gave no details on the statement.
Through an interpreter, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan asked whether Abu Ghaith understood his rights. Abu Ghaith nodded yes. Asked whether he had money to hire an attorney, Abu Ghaith shook his head no. He nodded when asked whether he had signed an affidavit describing his financial situation.
Bail was not requested, and none was set. The judge said he would set a trial date April 8. Prosecutors said a trial would last about three weeks.
The Obama administration has long sought to charge senior al-Qaida suspects in American federal courts instead of military tribunals at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But it runs counter to demands by Republicans in Congress who do not want high-threat terror suspects brought into the United States.
Abu Ghaith was born in Kuwait and was bin Laden's son-in-law. The Department of Justice said he was the spokesman for al-Qaida, working alongside bin Laden and current leader Ayman al-Zawahri, since at least May 2001. Abu Ghaith is a former mosque preacher and teacher.
The day after the Sept. 11 attacks, prosecutors say, he appeared with bin Laden and al-Zawahri and called on the "nation of Islam" to battle against Jews, Christians and Americans.
A "great army is gathering against you," Abu Ghaith said on Sept. 12, 2001, according to prosecutors.
Shortly afterward, Abu Ghaith warned in a speech that "the storms shall not stop - especially the airplanes storm" and advised Muslims, children and al-Qaida allies to stay out of planes and high-rise buildings. In one video, he was sitting with bin Laden in front of a rock face in Afghanistan. Kuwait stripped him of his citizenship after Sept. 11.
In 2002, under pressure as the U.S. military and CIA searched for bin Laden, Abu Ghaith was smuggled into Iran from Afghanistan, prosecutors said.
Abu Ghaith's trial will mark one of the first prosecutions of senior al-Qaida leaders on U.S. soil. Charging foreign terror suspects in American federal courts was a top pledge by Obama shortly after he took office in 2009, aimed, in part, to close Guantanamo Bay.
Republicans have fought the White House to keep Guantanamo open. Several GOP lawmakers on Thursday said Abu Ghaith should be considered an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo.
Generally, Guantanamo detainees have fewer legal rights and due process than they would have in a court in America but could potentially yield more information to prevent future threats.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- Duquesne crash leaves 1 injured
- SHOOTING FOR THE STARS IN UNIONTOWN
- Troop cuts worry vets in Fayette
- FAA asks authority for updates
- New Kensington-Arnold board debates dress code
- With no money for upkeep, Prospect Cemetery Association board to disband
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Brackenridge may be required by law to maintain cemetery
- Agent confirms Mendenhall retiring from NFL
- Robert Morris University Polling Institute poll finds value of college in doubt