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Terror Trial Begins for 9/11 Mastermind's Son-in-Law

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Opening statements were heard in Manhattan federal court Wednesday in the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, who is accused of conspiring to kill Americans after the September 11th attacks. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith praised the September 11th attacks and warned that the storm of airplanes would continue. Federal prosecutors say that he was al-Qaida's spokesman and that Osama bin Laden turned to him to help recruit people to attack the United States.

During opening arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said that's exactly what he did in a video recording the day after September 11, 2001, saying, "He encouraged Muslims across the world to pick up arms and fight with al-Qaida."

Abu Ghaith is bin Laden's son-in-law. The Department of Justice has charged him with conspiring to kill Americans and providing support to terrorists, but he is not charged with participating in the September 11th attacks, and his defense team says that's a key point. 

"Everyone wants bin Laden to be on trial, and you're going to hear bin Laden and bin Laden and bin Laden and bin Laden and very little Sulaiman Abu Ghaith because they know bin Laden is a buzzword," said defense attorney Stanley Cohen. "It strikes a painful moment in this city and in this world."

The trial, in a civilian court just blocks away from the World Trade Center, is a high-stakes case. Some have said it should have been tried in a secret military tribunal.

Karen Greenberg is the director of national security at Fordham University Law School, and she says the trial should prove that the court system can handle complicated international terrorism cases. 

"The question is, what are we going to do with people in the future that come into U.S. custody with these kinds of charges?" she said. "And so that's why this becomes important." 

During the trial, jurors will hear from two convicted terrorists who are testifying for the government. One will be in the courtroom. He's from the Buffalo area. The other will appear in a video conference from London. He plotted to blow up planes using shoe bombs.

Throughout the first day of the trial, Abu Ghaith sat quietly as video of him and bin Laden was played for jurors. The judge told him that he will get a chance to tell his side of the story if he decides to testify.

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