NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An FBI agent took the stand Thursday in the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, FBI Special Agent Michael Butsch was the chief interviewer to question Sulaiman Abu Ghaith aboard a flight to the United States after his arrest in Turkey a year ago.
The agent testified that the interview lasted nine to 10 hours with breaks to allow Abu Ghaith to pray and to nap.
Butsch testified that Abu Ghaith said he was close to the al Qaeda leader but not a member of al Qaeda. The government contends he was at the very top of the terror organization, Cornell reported.
Abu Ghaith told the agent he was an orator, not a fighter. He told Butsch he lectured in the training camps and had heard something big was on the horizon but didn’t know what until immediately after the 9/11 attacks, according to testimony Thursday.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks, Abu Ghaith told Butsch he was summoned by bin Laden to make the videotaped speeches that let the world know that al Qaeda was responsible, Cornell reported.
During the questioning, Butsch testified, he asked Abu Ghaith about references he made in his propaganda videos, calling Americans “lovers of satan.”
The agent asked how al Qaeda refers to non-Muslims.
Abu Ghaith responded by comparing al Qaeda’s view of the western world to the view expressed by President George W. Bush when he declared, “You’re either with us or against us.”
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Abu Ghaith knew of al Qaeda’s plans when he promised in videotapes sent across the world in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks that “the storm of airplanes will not abate” against Americans and advised Muslims in America and Great Britain to stay off aircraft.
Abu Ghaith, born in Kuwait, faces a possible life prison sentence if he is convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and of providing material support to al Qaeda. His trial began in federal court in Manhattan last week. About five years ago, he married bin Laden’s eldest daughter, Fatima.
Abu Ghaith, 48, a onetime imam at a Kuwaiti mosque, has pleaded not guilty in the case. He is the highest-ranking reputed al Qaeda figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks.
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