Bin Laden son-in-law's trial in New York reignites Guantánamo debate
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, is charged with conspiring to kill US nationals and will be tried in a civilian court in New York. Some say he should be sent to Gitmo.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to kill US citizens in an arraignment in a New York federal courtroom Friday morning, an appearance that has revived controversy over whether terror suspects should be tried in civilian or military courts.Skip to next paragraph
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According to the Department of Justice, Mr. Abu Ghaith was the spokesman for Al Qaeda and a top propagandist in the terror network who appeared in two videos, one alongside Mr. bin Laden, lauding the 9/11 attacks and promising there would be more. As such, his appearance Friday in federal court makes him one of the highest-ranking Al Qaeda officials to face civilian trial on US soil.
In an indictment released Thursday, Abu Ghaith was charged with one count of conspiring to kill US nationals. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
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“Among other things, Abu Ghaith urged others to swear allegiance to bin Laden, spoke on behalf of and in support of al Qaeda's mission, and warned that attacks similar to those of September 11, 2001 would continue,” according to the indictment.
Abu Ghaith’s capture – he was taken into custody in Turkey and deported to Jordan, where he was captured this past week by Jordanian and US officials and brought to the United States – marks a major coup for counterterrorism officials.
“No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America's enemies to justice,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday. “This arrest sends an unmistakable message: There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“The significance of this capture is that he was an individual who is alleged to have engaged in pretty significant organizational affiliation with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden … and maybe some plots as well,” says Raha Wala, advocacy counsel in the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First, a nonprofit organization. “Somebody who was captured overseas in Jordan in an area in which we have some law enforcement officials present.… That’s a big deal.”
It also marks a major success for the Obama administration, which has fought a legal and public relations battle to charge foreign terror suspects in American federal courts rather than military tribunals. Abu Ghaith is one of the first top Al Qaeda officials to go on trial on US soil.