Jury selection is underway in the trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and al-Qaida's alleged spokesman on terror-related charges. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
The trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is sure to open wounds connected to the September 11th attacks. Some potential jurors said Monday that they knew people who were killed during the attacks. Those jurors were excused.
Stanley Cohen is Abu Ghaith's lead defense attorney. He said it's important that the trial is not being held in a secretive military tribunal, but rather, a civilian court.
"We don't have a system that says you can warehouse people for 13, 14, 15 years just because we don't want to give them a trial," Cohen said. "So it is an important trial because it will prove that people alleged to have committed very serious offenses are entitled to their day in court and can get their day in court."
Federal prosecutors say that Abu Ghaith plotted with al-Qaida to kill Americans, and they say he appeared in a video the day after the September 11th attacks supporting the attacks and warning that others would follow.
Attorney Randy Mastro is a former federal prosecutor and deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani. He said it's hard to say whether high-level terror figures should be tried in private military hearings or in civilian courts.
"It'll be interesting to see how this trial plays out," Mastro said. "But the fact of the matter is, he's being tried in a U.S. courtroom before one of the most respected judges in the U.S. federal court system. He's being tried right here in New York, where we know how to give and to do justice."
One potential juror said he was a lawyer who has represented alleged terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He said he couldn't forget what he learned or saw there, but could be fair during Abu Ghaith's trial.
Judge Lewis Kaplan said that the man was credible and refused to automatically dismiss him.
"He went out of his way to be fair to both sides," Cohen said. "He said, 'Look, I'll follow the law. I'll do what I have to do.' Those are perfect jurors."
Opening arguments in the case are expected to be delivered on Wednesday. The trial could last up to four or five weeks.