NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Jury selection continues in the trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law in Manhattan.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, the jurors chosen to try Sulaiman Abu Ghaith on terrorism charges will remain anonymous.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan told prospective jurors, “even I don’t know your names and it will stay that way.”
Abu Ghaith will be tried on charges that he conspired to kill Americans and support terrorists in his role as al Qaeda’s spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks.
People who knew someone who died or whose lives were closely touched by the September 11 attacks generally tell the judge they would find it difficult to be impartial and they’re being excused, Cornell reported.
Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, is described as one of the former al Qaeda leader’s closest advisers.
He appeared in propaganda videos after the 9/11 attacks making threats against the United States, prosecutors contend.
The indictment quotes Abu Ghaith warning of more attacks involving airplanes. It also links him to the failed shoe bomber plot that was aimed at bringing down an airliner on a trans-Atlantic flight.
His position in al Qaeda has been compared to that of the consigliere in a mob family, Cornell reported.
Twelve anonymous jurors and several alternates will be selected during the process before opening statements start on Wednesday or Thursday. The trial is expected to last about three to five weeks.
Abu Ghaith was brought to the United States a year ago following his capture in Jordan.
The judge told prospective jurors they would need to decide whether Abu Ghaith had conspired to kill Americans, conspired to provide material support and resources to terrorists and then supplied material support and resources to terrorists.
Abu Ghaith is the highest-ranking al Qaeda figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The government plans to show jurors during its opening statement a picture of Abu Ghaith seated with bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders on Sept. 12, 2001, as they make statements about the attacks.
Prosecutors also will show post-Sept. 11 videos in which the charismatic bearded man promises more attacks on the United States as devastating as those that destroyed the World Trade Center and killed thousands of people.
“The Americans must know that the storm of airplanes will not stop, God willing, and there are thousands of young people who are as keen about death as Americans are about life,” Abu Ghaith said in an Oct. 9, 2001 speech.
Defense lawyers said some government evidence relates to a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with a similar name to Abu Ghaith rather than to the defendant, who has pleaded not guilty. The judge has called the mistaken-identity claim “utterly meritless.”
The Kuwaiti-born defendant was captured in Jordan as he headed to Kuwait, which had revoked his citizenship after Sept. 11.
In an affidavit, Abu Ghaith said he left Afghanistan in 2002 and entered Iran, where he was arrested and held in prisons and interrogated extensively. He said he was heading home to Kuwait to see family when his flight landed instead in Amman, Jordan, where he was handcuffed and turned over to American authorities.
Abu Ghaith is married to bin Laden’s eldest daughter, Fatima, one of nearly two dozen children bin Laden was believed to have fathered before he was killed in Pakistan by U.S. special forces in 2011.
Before heading to Afghanistan in 2000, Abu Ghaith was an imam at a Kuwaiti mosque.
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