A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden who warned the United States after Sept. 11 that “the storm of airplanes will not stop” was convicted Wednesday of conspiring to kill Americans.
A federal jury in Manhattan deliberated five hours before returning the verdict against the son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti imam and al Qaeda spokesman who was captured in Jordan last year.
He could face life in prison. Sentencing is Sept. 8.
“We hope this verdict brings some small measure of comfort to the families of the victims of al Qaeda’s murderous designs,” Preet Bharara, the Manhattan U.S. attorney, said in a statement.
Abu Ghaith, 48, is the top-ranking al Qaeda figure to be tried in the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks. His lawyer promised an appeal.
In a closing argument, a federal prosecutor told jurors that bin Laden turned to Abu Ghaith on the night of Sept. 11, 2001, to make videos that would help replenish al Qaeda’s ranks of suicide terrorists and bring in young men from around the world to help with a “war with America.”
Abu Ghaith said that bin Laden told him that night: “Did you learn what happened? We are the ones who did it.”
Prosecutors showed the jury al Qaeda propaganda videos and transcripts in which Abu Ghaith praised the suicide hijackers. His warning about further airplanes was delivered in October 2001.
Abu Ghaith took the stand in his own defense and cast himself as a mere mouthpiece for bin Laden. He denied that he recruited for al Qaeda, but he conceded on cross-examination that he believed in the terror leader’s message.
“I didn’t go to meet with him to bless if he had killed hundreds of Americans or not,” Abu Ghaith said. “I went to meet with him to know what he wanted.”
He was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiring to provide support to al Qaeda and providing support to al Qaeda.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published March 26 2014, 8:06 AM