The son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, testified on Wednesday that bin Laden was so positive that he would not be found by the United States after 09/11 that he boasted of it just hours after the attacks. Abu Ghaith, 48, is testifying in Manhatten Federal Court as part of his trial on conspiracy to kill Americans and the supporting of terrorists. He had not been expected to take the stand in his own defense. When the announcement from his lawyer went out that Abu Ghaith would testify, the nearly empty courtroom soon filled with spectators.
According to Abu Ghaith, just hours after the attacks of 09/11, bin Laden sent a courier to Abu Ghaith to drive him to a meeting with bin Laden – a meeting that took place in a cave located in the Afghanistan mountains. At that meeting, bin Laden told Abu Ghaith that they were behind the attacks and asked him what he thought would happen. When told that he expected the U.S. to hunt him down and kill him, bin Laden disregarded his opinion as being “too pessimistic.” The events of May 2011, when Navy SEALs raided bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout and killed him, ultimately proved that bin Laden was wrong.
Abu Ghaith testified that in June of 2001, he had traveled from Kuwait, where he resided as a Muslim scholar, to Afghanistan as part of an “humanitarian mission to see what the Taliban could offer” the people of Pakistan in terms of education of the Islam faith. When invited to have lunch with bin Ladin, he accepted the invitation to avoid being rude, even though he knew that bin Laden was suspected of terrorism. Bin Ladenrequested that Abu Ghaith film a propaganda video regarding 09/11, which he did with hesitation. He insisted that the words he spoke in the video were not his own, but had come from bin Laden. Federal prosecutors say that the act of filming the video with bin Laden the day after the attacks and on subsequent days made Abu Ghaith a spokesman for Al Qaeda.
Abu Ghaith denies that other videos he filmed were used as rallying cries to attract more members. He testified that although bin Laden had enlisted him to make the videos in an attempt to belie the reputation of Al Qaeda’s training camps as rough and weapon-filled and to show potential recruits a different side of Al Qaeda life, his intention during the filming was to preach and to inspire others to join the fight against the oppression of Muslims.
In a video made in 2001, Abu Ghaith warns that “the storm of airplanes will not stop,” a threat that prosecutors believe gives away his prior knowledge of the attempted shoe bombing of an American jet by Richard Reid in December of 2001. Abu Ghaith testified that he was never a spokesman for Al Qaeda and that he had no information regarding the planned shoe bombs. He admits that he did deliver video messages for Al Qaeda, but insists that he was not speaking “on behalf of Al Qaeda,” but was instead preaching in order to showcase that 09/11 occurred because Muslims were being oppressed and in hopes that the U.S. would back down.