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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Bin Laden’s Son-in-Law Pleads Not Guilty to Terror Charges

MANHATTAN (CN) - Osama bin Laden's son-in law, Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, pleaded not guilty Friday morning on charges that he conspired to kill Americans.

Dressed in a navy blue prison uniform, Abu Ghayth entered the ceremonial courtroom - the largest in the district - for arraignment with his hands cuffed behind his back, led by two U.S. marshals. He was mostly bald with a scraggly salt-and-pepper beard.

Asked by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan if he had counsel, Abu Ghayth replied, "these two" and indicted his newly court-appointed counsel Philip Weinstein and Martin Cohen.

Though Abu Ghayth spoke mainly through an interpreter, he spoke a few words in English.

Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Abu Ghayth on Thursday, accusing him of supporting al-Qaida and of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals.

They say bin Laden summoned Abu Ghayth after hours after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and asked for his assistance.

Abu Ghayth allegedly agreed and appeared the next morning with bin Laden and his then-deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. Speaking on behalf of al-Qaida, Abu Ghayth allegedly warned the United States and its allies that "[a] great army is gathering against you." He went on to call upon "the nation of Islam" to do battle against "the Jews, the Christians and the Americans," according to the indictment.

Abu Ghayth also delivered a later speech in which he warned Secretary of State Colin Powell that "the storms shall not stop, especially the Airplanes Storm," prosecutors said. He also allegedly advised Muslims, children and opponents of the United States "not to board any aircraft and not to live in high rises."

At the hearing, Abu Ghayth was read his Miranda rights and informed of his right to a bail proceeding.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan said that the evidence against Abu Ghayth includes an "extensive post-arrest statement" and DVDs with video and audio recordings.

His next hearing is scheduled for April 8 at 2:30 p.m.

In a statement announcing the indictment Thursday, FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos likened Abu Ghayth's position with al-Qaida to that of the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime.

The U.S. Attorney's Office added: "From at least May 2001 up to around 2002, Abu Ghayth served alongside Usama Bin Laden, appearing with Bin Laden and his then-deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, speaking on behalf of the terrorist organization and in support of its mission, and warning that attacks similar to those of September 11, 2001 would continue."

Neither the indictment, dated March 1, nor the Justice Department statement revealed where or how Abu Ghayth was arrested. U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York reportedly told the BBC that Abu Ghayth was arrested either in Jordan.

That same article also reported that Abu Ghayth was arrested more than a month ago in Ankara, Turkey, but released because he had not committed a crime there. The BBC said the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that he was arrested again after leaving Turkey, on the way to Kuwait.

Prosecutors said Abu Gayth arranged to be, and was, successfully smuggled from Afghanistan into Iran in 2002.

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