New York : In a surprise testimony in a US court, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law recounted meeting him in a cave in the mountains of Afghanistan hours after the 9/11 attack which was claimed by the slain al-Qaeda chief.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, 48-year-old Kuwaiti-born cleric, took the stand in his defence on Wednesday two weeks after his trial began where he faces charges of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists. He spoke in Arabic and his testimony was translated into English by an interpreter.
He has pleaded not guilty and faces life in prison if convicted. He recalled that just hours after the twin towers were attacked in New York, he was driven for about three hours from Kandahar in the night after he was summoned to meet bin Laden.
Bin Laden was in a cave in the mountains of Afghanistan. Abu Ghaith testified that bin Laden wanted his opinion on what he thought would happen next following the 9/11 strikes. “He said, ‘Come in, sit down. Did you learn about what happened?'” bin Laden told him that “we are the ones who did it,” Abu Ghaith recalled. Abu Ghaith, wearing a blue shirt and charcoal-colored jacket, said he told bin Laden “If it was proven that you were the one who did this, America will not settle until it accomplishes two things: to kill you and topple the state of Taliban.”
Bin Laden replied simply by telling him “You’re being too pessimistic.” Within months, the US-led forces toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden was forced onto the run.
The al-Qaeda chief was shot dead by US Navy SEALs during a daring raid on his hideout in Pakistan in 2011.
Abu Ghaith, the highest-level al-Qaeda figure to be tried in the US since 9/11, said bin Laden wanted him to send out a message to the world following the terror attacks.
Married to bin Laden’s eldest daughter Fatima, he had served as a spokesman for bin Laden.
In one of the videotaped speeches delivered on September 12, 2001, he sat beside bin Laden and praised the previous day’s attacks, warning that there would be more such attacks. “My intention was to deliver a message, a message I believed in,” he said.
“I was hoping the United States would say, ‘Let’s sit down and talk and solve these problems,’ but America was going on and doing what I expected them to do.”
Abu Ghaith has testified that he had no idea “specifically” that the WTC attacks would occur, saying he got to know about them through news reports. However, when cross-examined by prosecutor Ferrara, he admitted that he had heard that “something” might happen in the training camps, a CBS report said.
He denied allegations that he had prior knowledge of the failed shoe-bomb airline attack by Richard Reid in December 2001. It was at Abu Ghaith’s trial that the defense wanted to obtain testimony of 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
But Judge Lewis Kaplan did not allow Mohammed’s testimony, ruling that the defense had not shown that Mohammed “has personal knowledge of anything important to this matter.”