NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York jury has completed its first day of deliberations in the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden‘s son-in-law, a Kuwaiti clergyman who became al Qaeda’s spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, the jurors sent a letter to federal Judge Lewis Kaplan Tuesday afternoon saying they were mentally exhausted from reviewing transcripts.
The jury began deliberations Tuesday morning after the judge read the law that will guide them toward a verdict in the case of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith.
Central to the case are recordings in which Abu Ghaith is heard preaching about the Sept. 11 attacks.
Prosecutors said the tapes are evidence that he was a top al Qaeda spokesman and insider tasked with recruiting a fresh crop of terrorists.
As a Kuwaiti imam recruited to be al Qaeda’s chief spokesman in the months following Sept. 11, Abu Ghaith “allowed himself to be caught on tape committing his crimes — because he never thought they’d be played in this courtroom,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara said Monday in a rebuttal at closing arguments.
“You are looking at a guilty man,” the prosecutor told jurors, referring to Abu Ghaith. “You can convict the defendant on those videos alone.”
Abu Ghaith’s attorney, Stanley Cohen, countered in his closing that there was no evidence his client had a senior position with al Qaeda.
He accused prosecutors of seeking to inflame jurors by repeatedly showing them the martyr video and by endlessly referencing 9/11, even though Abu Ghaith isn’t charged in the attack.
The video “was designed, it was intended to sweep you away in anguish, in pain, and to ask for retaliation,” Cohen said.
The defense attorney later warned the jury that the videos were “an invitation to speculate,” and accused the government of “trying to steal your independence, to intimidate you and to frighten you into returning verdicts not based upon evidence, but fear.”
Taking the witness stand last week, Abu Ghaith recounted how he was summoned to meet with bin Laden in a cave on the night of Sept. 11. When the attacks came up in the conversation, bin Laden told him, “We are the ones who did it,” he testified.
“I want to deliver a message to the world. — I want you to deliver that message,” Abu Ghaith said bin Laden told him.
The next day, Abu Ghaith was recorded sitting next to bin Laden and saying, “We are capable of engaging in this confrontation.”
The jury also heard audio from October 2001 of the defendant warning, “The storm of airplanes will not stop” – evidence that the government alleged showed the defendant knew in advance about the failed shoe-bomb airline attack by Richard Reid in December 2001.
Abu Ghaith is married to bin Laden’s eldest daughter, Fatima. He is the highest-level al Qaeda figure to be tried in the U.S. since 9/11. He was brought to New York from Turkey last year.
If convicted Abu Ghaith faces life in prison.
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