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Osama Bin Laden's son-in-law and mouthpiece Sulaiman Abu Ghaith faces New York court

Monday, 8 April 2013 - 10:02am IST | Place: Washington | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Osama bin Laden's son-in-law pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in a New York court on Friday, becoming the closest member of the dead terrorist's family to face the US justice system.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith allegedly acted as the chief spokesman for al-Qaeda at the time of the September 11 attacks. He appeared alongside bin Laden the morning after the outrage to warn America that "a great army is gathering against you".

The 47 year-old was reportedly captured several weeks ago in Turkey before being deported to Jordan, where he was handed over to the FBI and secretly taken to America.

Yesterday, a balding and bearded Ghaith wore a blue prison uniform as he appeared in a Manhattan court just blocks away from the site of the World Trade Centre. He denied taking part in a conspiracy to kill Americans.

Security was visibly heavy, with a beefed-up presence of marshals and a bomb-sniffing dog in and around the courtroom.

Prosecutors disclosed that he had made an "extensive" 22-page statement after his capture, raising the possibility that he may cooperate with the US hunt for al-Qaeda's remaining leaders. Ghaith is alleged to have been a member of bin Laden's inner circle and to have strengthened his relationship with the terrorist leader by marrying his daughter, Fatima.

In the weeks after the September 11 attacks, he released a series of statements taunting the US and calling for jihad against the West.

"The Americans should know that the storm of plane attacks will not abate," he said. "There are thousands of the Islamic nation's youths who are eager to die just as the Americans are eager to live."

Ghaith was smuggled out of Afghanistan following the American-led invasion in 2001.

He is believed to have spent much of the past decade in captivity in Iran.

He and members of his family were reportedly held hostage by Tehran's Shia leaders to ensure that the Sunni-led al-Qaeda did not carry out attacks in Iran. Ghaith's trial in a civilian court, due to start on April 8, is unusual in an era when terrorism suspects are more commonly killed by drone strikes.

It also represents a victory for the White House, whose efforts to try terror suspects in federal courts have been continually hampered by Republicans in Congress, who insist that they should face military trials at Guantanamo Bay.




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