Osama bin Laden's son-in-law took the witness stand in his terror trial Wednesday in Lower Manhattan, where he personally recounted meeting the terror leader the night of September, 11, 2001 in a cave in Afghanistan. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith took the witness stand and calmly answered questions about why he sat side by side with Osama bin Laden after the September 11th attacks.
He told the court that just hours after the planes struck American targets, bin Laden asked him to make a video explaining the reason for the attacks. Hiding inside a cave, he said that bin Laden told him "I want you to deliver that message and address the world."
Abu Ghaith said that he told the al-Qaida leader, who would later become his father-in-law, that he wasn't a military man and should not do it, saying, "If you can spare me that mission it would be best," but he said that bin Laden pressed the issue, giving him bullet points to talk about.
He said he used his skills as a preacher to formulate a speech that said that America had brought the attacks on itself with its policies against the Muslim world. During his testimony, he said that he wasn't speaking for al-Qaida but for Muslims who were being oppressed.
His defense team said it was important for the court to hear his story.
"The jury now has information from Mr. Abu Ghaith through his own testimony about where that information came from and what its source was," said Zoe Dolan, one of Abu Ghaith's attorneys.
Federal prosecutors grilled Abu Ghaith about his relationship and respect for bin Laden. The U.S. attorney's office accuses Abu Ghaith of making recordings to recruit Muslims to attack the United States.
Abu Ghaith is the highest-ranking accused terrorist to take the stand in his own defense in an American civil court. His defense team said this proves that high-profile terror trials don't have to be held in secretive military hearings.
"No one has ever had one of the participants in that video say, 'This is what I meant and this is what it was and this is what I said.' This is the first time anywhere in the world that has happened," said Stanley Cohen, one of Abu Ghaith's attorneys.
After he finished his testimony, Abu Ghaith said, "I wish to thank the court and thank the jury."
Judge Lewis Kaplan said that both sides should be ready to give their closing arguments on Monday at the latest.