New York – A US prosecutor on Wednesday charged that Kuwaiti-born Suleiman Abu Ghaith was a willing helping hand to his late father-in-law Osama bin Laden in the immediate hours after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Assistant US Attorney Nicholas Lewin delivered the prosecution's opening statement in the trial of Abu Ghaith, who is charged with conspiring to kill Americans and supporting terrorists as an al-Qaeda spokesman.
"Literally moments after the attacks of September 11, Osama Bin Laden turned to this man,” Lewin said, pointing to Abu Ghaith, according to the Daily News. “Osama bin Laden asked that man to deliver al-Qaeda’s murderous decree to the entire world. What did the defendant do? He agreed.”
Abu Ghaith, who is al-Qaeda’s highest-ranking member to be tried on US soil since the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, is on a trial a year after he was captured in Jordan.
Lewin told the 12-member jury that bin Laden asked his son-in-law to use his public speaking skills in the time after the attacks.
Lewin showed a picture to the jurors that showed Abu Ghaith alongside bin Laden, who was killed in a 2011 US special forces raid in Pakistan, and Ayman al-Zawahri, another al-Qaeda leader who is still at large.
Abu Ghaith’s defence lawyer Stanley Cohen rejected Lewin’s assertions, pointing out that his client was not accused of plotting the September 11 attacks.
“This is not about Osama bin Laden and this is not a trial about the plot of 9/11,” he said, according to the newspaper.
Abu Ghaith, 48, could face life in prison if convicted. His trial is expected to last up to one month.
In the weeks after the attacks, Abu Ghaith appeared on al-Qaeda propaganda videos with such threats as "the storms shall not stop, especially the airplanes storm,” according to the federal indictment.
Apart from material evidence to be presented to jurors, former al-Qaeda operatives will testify as government witnesses at the trial. They are Saajid Badat, who had agreed to carry out a shoe-bomb attack but later backed out, and Sahim Alwan, a Yemeni-American from upstate New York.