Federal Jury Deciding Fate of Former al-Qaeda Spokesman

Image: A man identified as Suleiman Abu Ghaith appears in this still image taken from an undated video address.
A man identified as Suleiman Abu Ghaith appears in this still image taken from an undated video address. Reuters file

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A federal jury on Tuesday began considering the fate of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, a Kuwaiti clergyman who became al-Qaeda's spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks and warned in widely circulated videos that the "storm of airplanes" would not end.

The New York jury began deliberations after U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan read the law that will guide them toward a verdict in the case of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. He is charged with conspiring to kill Americans and aid al-Qaeda and could face life in prison if convicted.

The deliberations came a day after Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan told jurors that bin Laden turned to Abu Ghaith the evening of the Sept. 11 attacks to make videos that would "help replenish al-Qaeda's stock of suicide terrorists by driving new crops of young men from around the globe to al-Qaeda in its war with America."

Abu Ghaith's attorney, Stanley Cohen, countered that his client was not guilty, saying "there's zero evidence" that the 48-year-old former teacher knew of the conspiracies the government claimed he knew about.

Citing several videos shown to the jury in which Abu Ghaith — sometimes sitting with bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders against a mountainous backdrop — railed against America, Cohen warned jurors not to let prosecutors "intimidate you and to frighten you into returning verdicts not based upon evidence, but fear."

Those videos, though, were portrayed by the government as the centerpiece of their case.

One 2002 al-Qaida propaganda video — titled "Convoy of Martyrs" — features Abu Ghaith preaching over still-horrific scenes of a plane flying into one of the World Trade Center towers. Another shows the defendant looking at bin Laden admiringly as the al-Qaida leader boasts that he knew the attack would make both towers fall.

— The Associated Press