Ex-al-Qaida spokesman and bin Laden's son-in-law gets life prison term in New York

Ex-al-Qaida spokesman and bin Laden's son-in-law gets life prison term in New York

NEW YORK - The Associated Press
Ex-al-Qaida spokesman and bin Ladens son-in-law gets life prison term in New York

Suleiman Abu Ghaith stands in front of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan (not shown) during his sentencing on terrorism charges, as seen in this courtroom drawing in New York Sept. 23. REUTERS Photo

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, who was detained in Turkey last year and later released, was sentenced on Sept. 23 to life imprisonment for acting as al-Qaeda’s spokesman after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Associated Press has reported.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was the highest-ranking al-Qaeda figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks. The Kuwaiti cleric became the voice of al-Qaeda recruitment videos after the 2001 attacks. He testified at the trial that his role was strictly religious.

Abu Ghaith was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who said he saw “no remorse whatsoever” from the 48-year-old imam.

“You continue to threaten,” the judge said. “You sir, in my assessment, still want to do everything you can to carry out al-Qaeda’s agenda of killing Americans.”

Defense attorney Stanley Cohen asked the judge to impose a 15-year sentence. A prosecutor called for life in prison.

Just before he was sentenced, Abu Ghaith said through an interpreter that he “would not come here today and seek mercy from anyone but God.”

“At the same moment [that] you were shackling my hands and intending to bury me alive, you are at the same time unleashing the hands of hundreds of Muslim youths,” he said. “They will join the ranks of the free men soon, and very soon the world will see the end of these theater plays.”

Abu Ghaith was convicted in March on conspiracy charges that he answered bin Laden’s request in the hours after the attacks to speak on 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.

“The storm of airplanes will not stop,” Abu Ghaith said in an October 2001 video, which was played for the jury at the trial.

Taking the witness stand in his own defense, Abu Ghaith calmly denied he was an al-Qaeda recruiter, claiming his role was religious and aimed at encouraging all Muslims to rise up against their oppressors. He insisted he agreed to meet with bin Laden in a cave on the night of Sept. 11, 2001, out of respect for bin Laden’s sheikh standing.

Unconfirmed news reports in February 2013 said the U.S. asked Turkey to extradite Abu Ghaith after his detention in Ankara earlier that year. Abu Gaith was seized at a luxury hotel in Ankara after a tip from the CIA and was being held there by police, the reports said. Ankara police declined to comment on the reports at the time, while a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Ankara said it would not comment on terror-related cases.

Turkey’s line on al-Qaeda

In March 2013 Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Faruk Loğoğlu called on the Turkish government to make clear whether or not they considered al-Qaeda a terrorist group. “What is this person [Abu Ghaith] still doing in Turkey?” Loğoğlu asked at a March 4 press conference at Parliament. ,

His question came only three days before Abu Ghaith was arrested by Jordanian officials in Amman and turned over to U.S. authorities. He was subsequently extradited to the U.S., where he was housed in a federal prison in New York.

Turkish security officials told the Hürriyet Daily News in February 2013 that the extradition of Abu Ghaith to the U.S. from Turkey seemed unlikely as national and international laws did not permit such an act.

“It’s not possible to extradite someone just because another country wants him. There is no legality for such an appeal. In this case, refugee law is being implemented,” an official said at the time, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Abu Ghaith incident coincided with public criticism from Washington for Turkey’s reluctance to align its definition of terrorism with international standards.

“In Turkey, most definitions of terrorism focus on attacks against the Turkish state, and the definitions are less clear when it comes to international terrorism,” Francis Ricciardone, then the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, told reporters on Feb. 5.