The preacher, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, then used his position as an al
Qaeda spokesman to conspire to kill Americans, the U.S. government
says. It says Abu Ghaith also provided and conspired to provide
material support and resources to terrorists.
"This man's purpose was to strengthen al Qaeda and solidify its
future," the prosecutor, John Cronan, said in closing the
government's case, repeatedly pointing at Abu Ghaith, who sat a few
Abu Ghaith faces life in prison if convicted by a New York federal
court jury, which is scheduled to begin deliberations on Tuesday.
Abu Ghaith's lawyer, Stanley Cohen, said in his closing argument
that the government had no evidence of conspiracy and said its case
was "an invitation to unsupported and outrageous speculation."
Abu Ghaith, 48, is one of the highest-ranking figures linked to al
Qaeda to face a civilian jury on terrorism-related charges since the
hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York's
World Trade Center, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Abu Ghaith later married one of the daughters of al Qaeda founder
bin Laden, who was killed in May 2011 by U.S. forces at his hideout
Prosecutors contend that Abu Ghaith knew about a shoe bomb plot
attempted by Briton Richard Reid in late 2001.
During their closing arguments on Monday, prosecutors showed jurors
several videos and transcripts in which Abu Ghaith praised the
September 11 hijackers and beckoned young Muslims to join the fight.
In one, from October 2001, he warned that "The storm of airplanes
will not stop."
"It's no surprise that a man like that knew exactly what was coming
from al Qaeda," Cronan said.
Cronan emphasized how Abu Ghaith repeatedly used words such as "we,"
"us" and "our" when discussing al Qaeda. In one, Abu Ghaith, who
testified last week that he had not joined al Qaeda, said "Our
martyrdom personnel are ready and eager to carry out operations
against American and Jewish targets."
"Without people like him, al Qaeda dies with every suicide attack,"
In closing arguments for the defense, Cohen accused the government
of trying to overwhelm jurors with videos of Abu Ghaith ranting
about attacks, but not providing evidence that he knew of any plots
against the United States.
"It was designed to prevent you from looking at the evidence or the
lack of evidence," Cohen told the jurors.
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Cohen also questioned the integrity of several government witnesses,
including an expert on al Qaeda, Evan Kohlmann. Kohlmann, Cohen
said, is unqualified and had hardly any familiarity with Abu Ghaith,
whom the government argued became a leader in al Qaeda after
September 11, 2001.
"The best evidence the defense has is the government's own
witnesses," Cohen said.
Cohen also attacked Saajid Badat, a convicted former al Qaeda
operative who testified for the government from an undisclosed
location in Britain. Badat said he had helped plan the shoe bomb
plot with Reid, but could not recall meeting Abu Ghaith.
Cohen also said the government has not sought to extradite Badat to
the United States, where he is under indictment for his role in the
shoe bomb plot, because it needs him to testify in terrorism trials.
"Why would they?" Cohen said. "He's their boy."
Abu Ghaith's messages on videos, Cohen said, "remain words, words
and associations, and that's it."
In a rebuttal, another prosecutor, Michael Ferrara, told jurors that
Cohen was trying to distract them. The moment Abu Ghaith agreed to
help bin Laden, he was guilty, Ferrara said.
"Don't let (Abu Ghaith) run from the evidence," Ferrara said.
The case is U.S. v. Abu Ghayth, U.S. District Court, Southern
District of New York, No. 98-cr-01023.
(Reporting by Bernard Vaughan; editing by Grant McCool)
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