NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law has been convicted in New York of conspiring to kill Americans by serving as al Qaeda’s spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The verdict came after about five hours of deliberation in the case against Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranking al Qaeda figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks.
The jury returned a verdict on three charges: conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiring to provide support to al Qaeda and providing support to al Qaeda. The charges carry a potential penalty of life in prison.
Abu Ghaith will be sentenced September 8.
“Like the others who have faced terrorism charges in Manhattan’s federal courthouse before him, Abu Ghaith received a fair trial, after which a unanimous jury rendered its verdict, justly holding him accountable for his crimes,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “We hope this verdict brings some small measure of comfort to the families of the victims of al Qaeda’s murderous designs.”
Abu Ghaith’s defense attorney Stanley Cohen spoke outside court on Wednesday.
“He believes that what happens has a purpose and a reason as intended,” he said. “He remains a man who is comfortable with himself, what he did and why. He’s a man of character and integrity and principle.”
Cohen said they will appeal the verdict.
The Kuwaiti imam had testified during a three-week trial that he answered bin Laden’s request in the hours after the attacks to speak on the widely circulated videos used to recruit new followers willing to go on suicide missions like the 19 who hijacked four planes on Sept. 11, 2001.
“The storm of airplanes will not stop,” Abu Ghaith was heard warning in an October 2001 video that was played for the jury.
Also shown repeatedly to the jury during the trial were frames of a video made Sept. 12, 2001, that showed Abu Ghaith seated next to bin Laden and two other top al Qaeda leaders as they tried to justify the attacks.
Cohen argued there was “zero evidence” that the 48-year-old former teacher knew of the conspiracies the government claimed he knew about. Citing the videos of his client, Cohen warned jurors not to let prosecutors “intimidate you and to frighten you into returning verdicts not based upon evidence, but fear.”
Prosecutors used Abu Ghaith’s testimony and closing arguments as an opportunity to reshow the image of the burning towers to jurors.
Captured in Jordan last year and brought to New York, Abu Ghaith has actively participated in his trial. He listened to testimony and arguments through headphones linked to an Arabic translator.
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