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Lawyer for Relative of Bin Laden Wants Chat With KSM

MANHATTAN (CN) - Lawyers for Osama bin Laden's son-in-law can conduct a supervised interview of the self-professed "mastermind" of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Sulieman Abu Ghaith will stand trial this month on charges that he plotted with al-Qaida based on his appearance in a propaganda video next to bin Laden and his father-in-law's then-deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Abu Ghaith's lawyer meanwhile says Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the "most qualified person alive" to know whether Abu Ghaith knew about al-Qaida operations in general or the "shoe bomber" attacks in particular.

Detained at Guantanamo Bay, Mohammed faces the death penalty for war crimes related to the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history.

A Feb. 4 motion to let Abu Ghaith's lawyer interview Mohammed took up the majority of oral arguments in a highly secured federal courtroom in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferraro told the court that such a meeting could be arranged "subject to certain conditions."

Stanley Cohen, the lawyer for Abu Ghaith argued, called the majority of those nine terms "no-brainers," but he said that one of them might pose a "significant problem."

But the lawyer said the condition that government lawyers attend the chat could be a "deal-breaker" for both Abu Ghaith and Mohammed.

David Nevin, who represents Mohammed for the Idaho-based firm Nevin, Benjamin, McKay & Bartlett LLP, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Abu Ghaith did not appear at the hearing. With trial currently slated for Feb. 24, his lawyers are fighting the clock to gather evidence in their client's defense.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan already has delayed trial before to give the defense more time to prepare, and he indicated that he is unlikely to do so again.

Cohen urged the judge to reconsider because he said what was originally expected to be a five-week trial now may take "significantly less" time. He said that stipulations that defense attorneys entered into with prosecutors could mean the trial will last between two to three weeks.

The parties will reconvene Thursday to further litigate the issue.

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