Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the spokesman and son-in-law of September 11th mastermind Osama bin Laden, is in custody after being captured last week in Jordan and is expected to be in U.S. federal court in New York on Friday for an initial hearing to face terror charges. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
He is the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, who appeared alongside the al-Qaeda leader in propaganda videos, including one that appeared the morning after September 11, 2001, warning of more attacks.
Now, he's being held in federal detention just blocks away from the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, where he will face terror charges.
"He, I know, has been a key member of the organization for a long time, predating the attacks of 9/11, and so I think that his arrest and his indictment is an important symbolic victory," said Zachary Goldman of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law.
Reportedly captured in Jordan sometime in the last week, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was quietly extradited to the U.S.
In an indictment unsealed late Thursday afternoon, he was charged with conspiracy to kill United States nationals. Court papers cite a speech in which he warned, "the storms shall not stop, especially the Airplanes Storm."
The Obama administration's decision to try him in civilian court and not treat him as an enemy combatant is already sparking a backlash.
Just two years ago, Obama backed off plans to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged September 11th co-conspirators in Lower Manhattan after local officials and Congress loudly objected.
"This administration seems adverse to the idea of treating future captors like this as enemy combatants," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "By taking that option off the table, you're putting people like this into federal court, giving them the same constitutional rights as an American citizen. But more than anything else, you're destroying the ability of holding them under the law of war for intelligence-gathering purposes."
Proponents pointed out that dozens of foreign terror suspects have been successfully convicted in U.S. federal courts since September 11, 2001.
As for Abu Ghaith, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. No trial date has been set. He'll appear in court Friday morning for his arraignment.