No verdict yet in al-Qaida spokesman’s terror case
NEW YORK (AP) — Jurors began deliberations Tuesday in the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law but ended the day without reaching a verdict on charges he conspired to kill Americans and aid al-Qaida as its spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The jury deliberated more than four hours in Manhattan in the case involving Sulaiman Abu Ghaith before deciding not to take U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan up on his offer to stay a little later if they wished.
“We are all tired and mentally exhausted and want to break for the day,” the jurors said in a note.
Before starting deliberations just before noon, Kaplan read the applicable law that will guide them toward a verdict in the case of the Kuwaiti clergyman who warned in widely circulated videos in the weeks after the attacks that the “storm of airplanes” would not end.
Abu Ghaith could face life in prison if convicted.
The deliberations came a day after Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan told jurors that bin Laden turned to Abu Ghaith the evening of the Sept. 11 attacks to make videos that would “help replenish al-Qaida’s stock of suicide terrorists by driving new crops of young men from around the globe to al-Qaida in its war with America.”
“So just hours after four planes came crashing into our country, amid al-Qaida’s savage success and the utter chaos of that terrible day, Osama bin Laden turned to this man,” Cronan said, pointing at the bearded defendant, who calmly listened to an Arabic interpreter through headphones.
Abu Ghaith’s attorney, Stanley Cohen, countered that his client was not guilty, saying “there’s zero evidence” that the 48-year-old former teacher knew of the conspiracies the government claimed he knew about.
Citing several videos shown to the jury in which Abu Ghaith — sometimes sitting with bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders against a mountainous backdrop — railed against America, Cohen warned jurors not to let prosecutors “intimidate you and to frighten you into returning verdicts not based upon evidence, but fear.”
Those videos, though, were portrayed by the government as the centerpiece of their case.
One 2002 al-Qaida propaganda video — titled “Convoy of Martyrs” — features Abu Ghaith preaching over still-horrific scenes of a plane flying into one of the World Trade Center towers. Another shows the defendant looking at bin Laden admiringly as the al-Qaida leader boasts that he knew the attack would make both towers fall.
Cohen, though, said there was no evidence his client had a senior position with al-Qaida. 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.
Abu Ghaith was brought to New York last year after his capture in Turkey. He has pleaded not guilty.