A man who served seven years in prison for aiding al-Qaida took the stand Thursday in the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, and it remains to be seen if the witness helps or hurts the government's case. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Sahim Alwan testified that he traveled to an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001, where he meet Osama bin Laden three times and Sulaiman Abu Ghaith once, but the government witness told the court that he got afraid and left.
"I knew by that time I was way in over my head," Alwan said.
Abu Ghaith is accused of conspiring to kill Americans by taking part in videos to recruit Muslims to fight the United States, but Alwan could not point out him in the courtroom and spent little time talking about him.
"If this is the witness who is going to put the meat on those bones, he just doesn't do it," said defense attorney Geoffrey Stewart.
Federal prosecutors say that as al-Qaida's spokesman, Abu Ghaith appeared on camera after 9/11 praising the attacks. Defense lawyers say that up until now, there's not much to the government's case.
"You are going to see a bunch of videos, which I predicted, you are going to see photos, which I predicted, and you haven't seen much more than that," said defense attorney Stanley Cohen.
An Army sergeant major also testified Thursday, saying that during raids in Afghanistan, he found coded information that listed the name of Abu Ghaith.
The sergeant said he spoke some Arabic, but when defense lawyer Zoe Dolan spoke Arabic, Judge Lewis Kaplan objected, saying, "No one is speaking Arabic in this courtroom on the record...It goes through the interpreter."
Defense attorneys said that could be a problem.
"I'm able to identify the documents in Arabic and speak them out loud as best as I can," Dolan said. "I am limited in what I can talk about in terms of other terms in Arabic that may apply to the case."
The trial resumes on Monday with another convicted terrorist testifying for the government, this time all the way from London in a video conference. The judge said he hopes that everything works correctly in the live video feed.