Courts & Crime

Judge sends Osama bin Laden spokesman to prison for life

In this courtroom sketch Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, center right, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, stands next to attorney Stanley Cohen, center, as interpreter Marwan Abdel-Rahman, right, quotes from the Quran on behalf of Abu Ghaith during his sentencing hearing in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, left, sentenced Abu Ghaith to life in prison for acting as al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks The judge said he saw "no remorse whatsoever" from the 48-year-old imam who was convicted in March on conspiracy charges that he answered Osama bin Laden's request in the hours after the attacks to speak on the widely circulated videos used to recruit new followers willing to go on suicide missions like the 19 who hijacked four commercial jets on Sept. 11. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this courtroom sketch Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, center right, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, stands next to attorney Stanley Cohen, center, as interpreter Marwan Abdel-Rahman, right, quotes from the Quran on behalf of Abu Ghaith during his sentencing hearing in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, left, sentenced Abu Ghaith to life in prison for acting as al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks The judge said he saw "no remorse whatsoever" from the 48-year-old imam who was convicted in March on conspiracy charges that he answered Osama bin Laden's request in the hours after the attacks to speak on the widely circulated videos used to recruit new followers willing to go on suicide missions like the 19 who hijacked four commercial jets on Sept. 11. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams) AP

A federal judge in New York sentenced Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, the terror organization’s spokesman after the Sept. 11th attacks that claimed the lives of about 2,976 people, to life in prison Tuesday.

In March, a jury found Salman Abu Ghayth guilty of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, as well as to providing material support to terrorists.

Attorney General Eric Holder hailed Abu Ghayth’s conviction as an example of how the United States can successfully prosecute terrorists in civil courts, rather than before military tribunals, such as the one handling the prosecution of the alleged alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11th attacks in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Holder said that Abu Ghayth “will never again set foot outside a prison cell.”

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, called Abu Ghayth “the mouthpiece of murder and menace for al Qaida,” after U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan handed down the sentence.

Abu Ghayth was sentenced just hours after the U.S. military bombed eight bases in Syria operated by al Qaida-affiliated groups aligned with the Islamic State.

His prosecution occurred almost at breakneck speed, compared with the case against alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was arrested in 2003 and is still awaiting justice.

Abu Ghayth was arrested overseas on Feb. 28, 2013 and made his first court appearance the next day.

By the time he was turned over to U.S. authorities, the Obama administration had already imposed a moratorium on new transfers to the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. So he was spared trial by military commission.

He was found guilty on March 26, 2014 after a three-week jury trial.

“We will continue to rely on this robust and proven system to hold accountable anyone who would harm our nation and its people,” Holder said of the civilian court system.

A team of Navy Seals killed Bin Laden in a raid on his home in Pakistan on May 2, 2001 after a nearly 10-year global manhunt.

From at least May 2001 through the end of that year, Abu Ghayth served alongside Bin Laden, appearing with him and his then-deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, now al Qaida’s declared leader, according to evidence presented in court.

Prosecutors said he assisted in recruiting young men to join the terror group and its mission to attack and kill Americans. After the group seized four U.S. jetliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennslyvania countryside, he warned publicly that more attacks were coming, they said. He continued to speak on behalf of the group through 2002, they said.

That year, he arranged to be smuggled from Afghanistan into Iran, where he and other al Qaida leaders were later arrested, prosecutors said.

“Sulaiman Abu Ghayth was a key spokesman for al-Qaida and had access to the terrorist group’s senior leadership as he took to the airwaves and threatened further attacks as our city was recovering from the horror of 9-11,” New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said. He said that the conviction is a reminder that New York police detectives and FBI agents on its joint terrorism task forces “will follow leads anywhere in the world to bring terrorists to justice.”

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