11 March 2014, 09:40

Shoe-bomb witness testifies from UK at trial of Bin Laden relative

Shoe-bomb witness testifies from UK at trial of Bin Laden relative

Jurors at the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law watched him threaten there would be no end to the "storm of airplanes" on videotapes made in the days after the September 11 attacks Monday just before a British man testified by video from London that he trained to blow up a plane in late 2001 with a shoe bomb.

Prosecutors showed the New York jury video clips of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith threatening Americans in the weeks after the terror attacks to set the stage for testimony from Saajid Badat, a 34-year-old United Kingdom resident who refuses to testify in the United States because he faces terrorism charges that could send him to prison for life.

Badat said he trained with failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid to carry out separate shoe-bomb attacks aimed at downing planes over America or in Europe in the months after the September 11 attacks were carried out with four hijacked airplanes.

He pleaded guilty in England in 2005 to conspiring to harm an aircraft and has been freed from prison after his sentence was shortened through his cooperation in terrorism cases. His plea came in connection with a 2001 plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. Prosecutors are using Badat's testimony to show that Abu Ghaith, as al-Qaida's spokesman, was in the thick of a conspiracy to create a second wave of airborne terrorism attacks while the debris left by the toppled twin towers of the World Trade Center was still burning.

Abu Ghaith is charged with conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to al-Qaida. If convicted, the 48-year-old onetime imam at a Kuwaiti mosque could face life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.

Immediately before Badat's testimony, prosecutors showed jurors a 50-second clip of a 5-minute videotape of Abu Ghaith from October 9, 2001, in which he threatens that "America must know that the storm of airplanes will not abate, with God's permission."

Alluding to martyrdom, he said there were "youths who are yearning to death just as Americans yearn to live." Then prosecutors showed nearly 2 minutes of an 8-minute videotape from October 13, 2001, in which Abu Ghaith threatens America again, saying some in the US had not understood the gravity of his earlier message.

"The storm of airplanes will not stop," he said at one point, according to an English translation of Arabic statements that was introduced as a court exhibit.

"We strongly advise Muslims in America and the Britain, the children and those who reject unjust American policies, not to board aircraft. ... We advise them not to live in high rises and tall buildings."

Despite many months spent in al-Qaida training camps and locations in Afghanistan from 1999 through 2001, Badat testified that he did not recognize a photograph of Abu Ghaith and did not recall having ever seen or heard him. Abu Ghaith is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on US soil since the September 11 attacks.

Trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law begins

Opening statements began Wednesday in the Manhattan trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and a high-ranking al-Qaeda member who was captured last year after he left Iran, where he had been held for more than a decade.

Assistant US Attorney Nicholas Lewin told an anonymous jury that Abu Ghaith, a Muslim cleric from Kuwait, had played a critical role in the terrorist group before and after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Lewin said Abu Ghaith had a “twisted view of Islam” and used the “murderous power of his words” to inspire hundreds of recruits and attract others from around the Persian Gulf region. His job was to “provide the al-Qaeda with its very lifeblood — fighters,” the federal prosecutor said.

The balding Abu Ghaith, in a blue suit and tie and his graying beard neatly trimmed, listened impassively through a courtroom interpreter. The 48-year-old faces several terrorism charges, including conspiracy to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Bin Laden son-in-law on trial in New York, US has no evidence of his guilt

A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and former al-Qaeda spokesman goes on trial in New York Monday, accused of conspiracy to kill Americans and supporting terrorists.Suleiman Abu Ghaith, who spent time with bin Laden in Afghanistan, is best known for making incendiary threats in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 people.

The 48-year-old suspect from Kuwait is one of the most senior alleged al-Qaeda members to face trial in the United States and faces life behind bars in an American prison if convicted.

His trial, which could feature testimony from the self-declared mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, will be watched closely by those pushing for all terror suspects to be tried in civilian courts.

The defendant is best-known for appearing alongside bin Laden and the current leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in al-Qaeda propaganda videos in September 2001.

Married to bin Laden's daughter Fatima, US prosecutors say Abu Ghaith worked for al-Qaeda until 2002, when he fled the US military presence in Afghanistan for neighboring Iran.

The prosecution claims he was complicit in the December 2001 plot to bring down an airliner flying from Paris to Miami.

British al-Qaeda recruit Richard Reid is serving a life sentence for trying to blow up the jet with bombs hidden in his shoes.

But the defense says the United States has no evidence that Abu Ghaith was involved or even aware of such plots.

The defendant pleads not guilty to all three counts against him.

Highlights in the trial are likely to be two witnesses testifying by video link from Britain and Yemen.

On March 10, Saajid Badat, a 33-year-old convicted co-conspirator of Reid subsequently released in Britain and dubbed a terror "supergrass" by the media, has been called by the prosecution.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan also authorized the testimony by video link of bin Laden's former driver Salim Hamdan, from Yemen.

Hamdan was convicted in the United States of providing material support for terrorists, but his sentence was overturned on appeal.

The defense tried repeatedly to delay the trial, most recently on the grounds of mistaken identity, but Kaplan ruled that selection for the anonymous jury will begin Monday.

Voice of Russia, washingtonpost.com, AFP


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