Fate of Bin Laden's Son-in-Law Put to Jury as Terror Trial Ends
MANHATTAN (CN) - Osama bin Laden's son-in-law "was no accidental terrorist," prosecutors said Monday before closing their case against the highest-ranking al-Qaida suspect to be tried on American soil since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
"Make no mistake about it, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was no accidental terrorist," said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan said. "Just hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, he tried to recruit young men into terrorism."
Abu Ghaith is accused of conspiring to kill Americans and aiding a known terrorist group for his alleged role as the spokesman for al-Qaida before and after Sept. 11, 2001. Prosecutors urged the 18-member jury on Monday to sentence him to life in prison.
Abu Ghaith had testified last week that bin Laden summoned him the day after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000. He said he met with bin Laden in a cave in Afghanistan the next day and reluctantly agreed to produce fiery propaganda videos promising that a "storm of planes" would not abate and warning British and American Muslims to stay out of high rise buildings and airplanes.
Prosecutors asked jurors to believe that the videos - and Abu Ghaith's role in producing them - were designed to instill terror in the hearts of Americans and recruit others to carry out suicide missions to kill Americans.
"Without him, al-Qaida dies after each suicidal attack," Cronan said
"This operation manifested itself into the most savage and barbaric conspiracy to kill Americans the world has ever seen," he added. "Sulaiman Abu Ghaith made a pledge to support Osama bin Laden and to followed through with pride and without hesitation."
Abu Ghaith, an imam from Kuwait, was captured last year in Turkey and brought to the United States. He has pleaded not guilty.
"His message," Cronan said of the propaganda videos Abu Ghaith is accused of creating, was delivered to the world in "clear terms: to annihilate the United States."
In addition to Abu Ghaith's own testimony, the three-week trial in a Manhattan high-rise courtroom just blocks from Ground Zero featured two convicted terrorists on the stand.
Abu Ghaith's attorneys said there wasn't a "drop of evidence" that he knew of had any involvement in any planned terrorist attacks before or after Sept. 11, 2001.
"The government has invited you to a movie theater," said Abu Ghaith's attorney, Stanley Cohen. "But the lights are on and the movie's over."
Cohen accused prosecutors of drumming on 9/11 and showing videos of the attacks to sway the jury and "sweep you away in anguish and pain." He also said prosecutors are asking them to reach a guilty verdict based not on evidence, but "for retaliation."
Suggesting that the federal government got the wrong guy, Cohen also noted that a man with the exact same name is currently being held as a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Abu Ghaith married bin Laden's oldest daughter, Fatima, five years ago.
Prosecutors are planned to give a rebuttal before the jury deliberates.