A man identified as Suleiman Abu Ghaith appears in this
still image taken from an undated video address.
A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and a high-ranking al
Qaeda figure who threatened that violence against the United
States would continue after the September 11, 2001 attacks, has
pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to kill Americans.
Suleiman Abu Ghaith, a militant who once appeared in videos
as a spokesman for al Qaeda, made his initial appearance in
US District Court in Manhattan, only blocks from the site of
the hijacked plane strikes on the World Trade Center.
The son-in-law of bin Laden, mastermind of the Sept. 11
attacks who was killed by US forces in Pakistan in 2011, was
captured on Feb. 28 and brought secretly into the United
States on March 1, prosecutors said in court. Government
sources said he was arrested in Turkey.
The balding, bearded Abu Ghaith was led handcuffed into the
crowded courtroom, the largest in the courthouse. Dressed in
dark blue prison garb, he appeared to be cooperative and
follow the proceedings closely through an interpreter,
He spoke twice, answering "Yes" when Judge Lewis Kaplan asked
him if he understood the accusations and "Yes" when asked if
he wanted court-appointed lawyers. The lawyers are Philip
Weinstein and Martin Cohen. Weinstein entered a not guilty
plea on Abu Ghaith's behalf.
Evidence against Abu Ghaith, one of the highest-ranking al
Qaeda figures to be brought to the United States to face a
civilian trial, includes videos, audio recordings and a
22-page transcript of remarks he has made to law enforcement,
They said a trial could last three weeks. A trial date will
be set at a hearing on April 8.
The judge read aloud from the indictment, which accuses Abu
Ghaith of urging allegiance to bin Laden and threatening
attacks similar to September 11 against the United States.
The indictment said Abu Ghaith delivered a speech that
included "the storms shall not stop, especially the airplanes
storm" and advised Muslims "not to board aircraft and not to
live in high rises."
Abu Ghaith stood while the judge was speaking but partway
through reading the details of the charge, the judge broke
off and told him he could sit.
The indictment accuses Abu Ghaith of acting in a conspiracy
that "would and did murder United States nationals anywhere
in the world," listing actions before and after September 11,
US Attorney General Eric Holder previously had announced
plans to try defendants in the September 11 attacks in the
same federal courthouse where Abu Ghaith appeared. But public
opposition forced him to back down, and the trials were moved
to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.