March 26, 2014
NEW YORK — In a quick decision, a jury convicted Osama bin Laden‘s son-in-law of conspiring to kill Americans in his role as the angry voice of Al Qaeda after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Sulaiman abu Ghaith, 48, faces life in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 8.
The case has given the public its first and possibly only chance to watch a terrorism trial related to the 2001 attacks unfold in civilian court. Unlike other high-profile terrorism suspects accused of crimes arising from the attacks, Abu Ghaith bypassed the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after his arrest last year.
Instead, he was brought directly to New York, where his trial began March 5 just blocks from where the World Trade Center towers once stood.
The case hinged in part on the importance of Abu Ghaith’s role as a spokesman for the terror group. Prosecutors maintained it was an important one.
“This man was not Osama bin Laden’s puppet,” said Jonathan Cronan, an assistant U.S. attorney, as he pointed his finger at Abu Ghaith during the trial “He was not a robot.
But Abu Ghaith’s defense attorney, Stanley Cohen, dismissed the government’s case as based not on evidence but on recordings and videos, including one showing hijacked jets slamming into the World Trade Center towers and the buildings enveloped in black smoke.
“It was intended to sweep you away … in anguish and pain,” said Cohen, comparing the prosecution’s case to a movie.
“The movie’s over, the lights are back on, and we’ve walked out of the theater. Let’s look at the evidence,” he said, before dismissing the government’s allegations as “speculation” and its witnesses as liars or frauds.
Also shown repeatedly to the jury during the trial were frames of a video made Sept. 12, 2001, that showed Abu Ghaith seated next to Bin Laden and two other top Al Qaeda leaders as they tried to justify the attacks.
Jurors deliberated roughly five hours before convicting Abu Ghaith of conspiring to kill Americans, providing material support to terrorists; and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.