Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law has been captured and was due to appear in court in New York yesterday on charges he plotted with the al-Qaeda leader to stage attacks on Americans.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, reportedly a 47-year-old Kuwaiti and allegedly one of the chief propagandists of the al-Qaeda network, stands accused of having “conspired, confederated, and agreed to kill nationals of the United States,” according to a Justice Department indictment.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said the arrest showed that the US would never relent in its pursuit of the militants who launched the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
“No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America’s enemies to justice,” Holder said.
“To violent extremists who threaten the American people and seek to undermine our way of life, this arrest sends an unmistakable message,” he said. “There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
His capture is unusual as US President Barack Obama’s administration has focused on killing al-Qaeda figures in bombing raids using unmanned drone aircraft, mostly in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
A Turkish newspaper had reported earlier that Ghaith was seized by US authorities in Ankara last month and was deported to Jordan, before being taken to the US.
However, FBI, White House and CIA officials declined to comment on how Bin Laden’s son-in-law ended up behind bars on US soil.
Republican lawmakers denounced the Obama administration for not sending the suspect to the US-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he could be prosecuted under special military tribunals.
“When we find somebody like this, this close to bin Laden and the senior al-Qaeda leadership, the last thing in the world we want to do, in my opinion, is put them in a civilian court,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said. “This man should be in Guantanamo Bay.”
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, agreed.
“Al-Qaeda leaders captured on the battlefield should not be brought to the United States to stand trial. We should treat enemy combatants like the enemy — the US court system is not the appropriate venue,” Rogers said.
Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, indicated that the FBI took the lead role in the capture, as part of a multi-agency body, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group.
The White House set up the group after Obama shut down a controversial CIA program that had detained suspects in a network of secret prisons during the tenure of former US president George W. Bush.
US authorities accuse Ghaith of assisting Bin Laden and of taking to the airwaves to promote al-Qaeda’s war against the US.
Ghaith “held a key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime,” said George Venizelos, the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office.
“He used his position to persuade others to swear loyalty to al-Qaeda’s murderous cause. He used his position to threaten the United States and incite its enemies,” he said.