A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and alleged high-ranking al-Qaeda figure who threatened that violence against the US would continue after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, pleaded not guilty on Friday to a charge of conspiracy to kill Americans.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a militant who once appeared in videos as a spokesman for al-Qaeda, made his initial appearance in US District Court in Manhattan, only blocks from the site of the hijacked plane strikes on the World Trade Center.
The son-in-law of bin Laden, mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks who was killed by US forces in Pakistan in 2011, was captured on Feb. 28 and brought secretly into the US on March 1, prosecutors said in court.
Government sources said he was arrested in Turkey.
The balding, bearded Abu Ghaith was led handcuffed into the crowded courtroom, the largest in the courthouse. Dressed in dark blue prison garb, he appeared to be cooperative and follow the proceedings closely through an interpreter, frequently nodding.
Evidence against Abu Ghaith, one of the highest-ranking al-Qaeda figures to be brought to the US to face a civilian trial, includes videos, audio recordings and a 22-page transcript of remarks he has made to law enforcement, prosecutors said.
The judge read aloud from the indictment, which accuses Abu Ghaith of urging allegiance to bin Laden and threatening attacks similar to Sept. 11 against the US.
The indictment said Abu Ghaith delivered a speech that included “the storms shall not stop, especially the airplanes storm” and advised Muslims “not to board aircraft and not to live in high rises.”
The indictment accuses Abu Ghaith of acting in a conspiracy that “would and did murder United States nationals anywhere in the world,” listing actions before and after Sept. 11, 2001.
US Attorney General Eric Holder previously had announced plans to try defendants in the Sept. 11 attacks in the same federal courthouse where Abu Ghaith appeared.
However, public opposition forced him to back down, and the trials were moved to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.