Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for acting as the voice of al-Qaida after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks, quoted the Koran, and suggested his case would prompt a backlash in the Muslim world.
“Today, at the same moment where you are shackling my hands and intend to bury me alive, you are at the same time unleashing the hands of hundreds of Muslim youth, and you are removing the dust of their minds, and they will join the rally of the free men,” said the Kuwaiti imam. “Soon, and very soon, the whole world will see, the whole world will see the end of these theater plays that are also known as trials.”
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan told Abu Ghaith his defiance was further proof he deserved life behind bars.
“You haven’t evidenced any doubt about the justification for what was done, and as recently as 15 minutes ago, you continue to threaten,” the judge said. “You, sir, in my assessment, are committed to doing everything you can to assist in carrying out al-Qaida’s agenda of killing Americans, guilty or innocent, combatant or noncombatant, adult or babies, without regard to the carnage that’s caused.”
Kaplan pointed to video used as evidence at Abu Ghaith’s trial, showing the defendant at bin Laden’s side as bin Laden bragged he had predicted that the attack on the World Trade Center would cause the Twin Towers to collapse.
“Bin Laden laughed as he explained that,” the judge said. “…You, at bin Laden’s right hand, evidenced in your facial expressions amusement. … It was funny. … a success, the massacre.”
The defendant showed no emotion as he heard the sentence. Afterward, he smiled and shook hands with his attorneys before being led out of the courtroom.
Abu Ghaith, 48, was convicted in March on conspiracy charges that he answered Osama bin Laden’s request in the hours after the 2001 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.
The jury heard audio from October 2001 of the defendant warning, “The storm of airplanes will not stop” — evidence that the government alleged the defendant knew in advance about the failed shoe-bomb airline attack by Richard Reid in December 2001.