NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The defense opened its case Monday in the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law at Manhattan federal court.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, a pair of FBI agents were the first witnesses called by the defense on Monday.
Meantime, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks said a onetime Osama bin Laden spokesman who is on trial in New York had no role in planning military operations for al Qaeda.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement filed late Sunday in Manhattan federal court that Abu Ghaith served as an al Qaeda spokesman because he was “an eloquent, spellbinding speaker.” But Abu Gaith, Mohammed said, “was not a military man and had nothing to do with military operations.”
Abu Ghaith, who is a son-in-law of bin Laden, is charged with conspiring to kill Americans.
Prosecutors say Abu Ghaith was part of al Qaeda’s deadly plot in his role as spokesman in fiery videos and as a motivational speaker at the group’s training camps in Afghanistan. Abu Ghaith’s lawyers have said the Kuwait-born imam made inflammatory remarks but didn’t conspire to carry out terrorism.
Defense lawyers are seeking to use testimony from Mohammed, who is in a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They would need U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan’s approval to introduce the information.
The defense has suggested Mohammed could help rebut the government’s claim that Abu Ghaith must have known in advance of al Qaeda’s so-called shoe bomb airplane plots, including Richard Reid’s attempt to carry one out in December 2001.
The statement from Mohammed consisted of answers he gave to questions posed by Abu Ghaith’s lawyers.
In the statement, Mohammed said he never spoke with Abu Ghaith about the shoe bomb operation and added, “those tasked with giving statements to the media do not necessarily know all the details of an operation and are sometimes even unaware of the very existence of the operation.”
Prosecutors rested their case Friday in the trial of Abu Ghaith, the highest-level al Qaeda figure to be tried in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks.
He 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 earlier this month.
About five years ago, Abu Ghaith married bin Laden’s eldest daughter, Fatima.
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