One of Osama Bin Laden's sons-in-law and trusted propaganda officials was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday by a New York federal judge after being found guilty in March of conspiring to kill Americans and providing support to terrorists.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was convicted on terrorism charges by a Manhattan federal jury for providing material support to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, which his father-in-law so famously founded. Abu Ghaith is the highest ranking al-Qaeda member to ever stand trial in U.S. federal court.
Abu Ghaith, originally from Kuwait, is most notable for being the spokesman for al-Qaeda in the time period after the 9/11 attacks. Additionally, he founded an Islamic charity front called Al Wafa which the U.S. government believes served as a key fundraiser for al-Qaeda.
"Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was the mouthpiece of murder and menace for al-Qaeda. Hours after the 9/11 attacks, Abu Ghaith, Usama bin Laden's propaganda minister, was exhorting others to pledge themselves to al-Qaeda in the cause of murdering more Americans," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "It has been 13 years since that terrible day, but from the day Abu Ghaith was brought to the United States 19 months ago, justice for him has been swift and fair."
Abu Ghaith was detained in Turkey in February of 2013 and was turned over to U.S. custody in Jordan a few days later. After a year and a half of going through the legal process, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan finally told Abu Ghaith of his fate after Abu Ghaith had told the court he would not ask for mercy from anybody but God and also quoted the Koran.
"You, sir, in my assessment, are committed to doing everything you can to assist al-Qaeda in its mission to kill Americans," Kaplan said.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the sentencing shows the swift power of the American judicial and justice system and that the U.S. will "never relent, in our pursuit of violent extremists."
"Justice has been served," Holder said. "This outcome ensures that Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a senior member of Al Qaeda and an associate of Usama bin Laden, will never again set foot outside a prison cell. From beginning to end, this trial, conviction and sentencing have underscored the power of America's Article III court system to deliver swift and certain justice in cases involving terrorism defendants."
According to the prosecutors, Abu Ghaith from at least May of 2001 up until 2002 appeared with Bin Laden and heavily urged others to join al-Qaeda and follow through with Bin Laden's radical objectives.
Abu Ghaith testified that he did in fact meet with Bin Laden on the day of Sept. 11. attacks and was told by Bin Laden that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks. Abu Ghaith also appeared with Bin Laden current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a video speech on Sept. 12, 2001 that told the U.S. and its allies that the organization was calling upon the "the nation of Islam" to help battle "the Jews, the Christians and Americans."
Abu Ghaith delivered speeches shortly after the 9/11 attacks threatening more airplane attacks and specifically warning then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that "the storms shall not stop, especially the airplanes storm." He also told Muslims and children not to board any airplanes or live in high rises.
"Abu Ghaith was a proud participant in al Qaeda's conspiracy to kill Americans," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan said. "He was someone Osama bin Laden relied on heavily."
Abu Ghaith's lawyer argued that his client was only guilty of conducting anti-American speeches and there was no evidence to prove that he plotted attacks.