Why Republicans want a military trial for Osama bin Laden's son in law

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda spokesman, now faces a trial in New York. But some Republicans want Abu Ghaith to face a military trial in Guantanamo. Why?

(AP Photo/Al-Jazeera)
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and Al Qaeda spokesman. Abu Ghaith faces an arraignment Friday in New York.

UPDATED: 11:15 a.m.

Some Republicans are livid that Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, is facing a civilian trial – instead of a military trial.

They see this as a political move intended to build a case for closing the US military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. President Barack Obama has said that he wants more foreign terror suspects charged in American federal courts, not in military tribunals at Guantanamo.

Abu Ghaith pleaded 'not guilty' in an arraignment in New York City Friday morning. His trial will be a high-profile case, a rare prosecution of a senior Al Qaeda leader in under US civil law. 

But Republicans don't want foreign terrorists tried on US soil. They say the legal precedent has been set for "enemy combatants" to be tried at Guantanamo Bay. They are concerned that giving Abu Ghaith a civilian trial will result in lost intelligence.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R of N.H.) told reporters that by bringing Ghaith to New York, he would be entitled to the same rights as a citizen, including a speedy trial and Miranda rights, according to Politico. “We don't want him to come to America before he has been fully interrogated – before he comes to America and hears the words, ‘You have the right to remain silent.’”

"We believe the administration's decision here to bring this person to New York City, if that's what's happened, without letting Congress know is a very bad precedent to set," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R of S.C.) in a press conference Thursday.

Senator Ayotte also told reporters that "When we find somebody like this, this close to bin Laden and the senior Al Qaeda leadership, the last thing in the world we want to do, in my opinion, is put them in civilian court. This man should be in Guantanamo Bay."

"So we're putting the administration on notice," Senator Graham said. "We think that sneaking this guy into the country, clearly going around the intent of Congress when it comes to enemy combatants, will be challenged."

In a statement on the website of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos described Sulaiman Abu Ghayth as holding "a key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime. He used his position to persuade others to swear loyalty to al Qaeda’s murderous cause. He used his position to threaten the United States and incite its enemies. His apprehension is another important step in the campaign to limit the reach of al Qaeda and enhance our national and international security.”

On the morning of September 12, 2001, Abu Ghayth, appeared with Bin Laden and Zawahiri, and spoke on behalf of al Qaeda, warning the United States and its allies that “[a] great army is gathering against you” and called upon “the nation of Islam” to do battle against “the Jews, the Christians and the Americans.” Also, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Abu Ghayth delivered a speech in which he addressed the then-US Secretary of State and warned that “the storms shall not stop, especially the Airplanes Storm,” and advised Muslims, children, and opponents of the United States “not to board any aircraft and not to live in high rises.”

The indictment charges Abu Ghayth with participating in a conspiracy to kill United States nationals, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b). The offense carries a maximum term of imprisonment for life.

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