In a surprising turn of events, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, testified in his own trial on Wednesday. The barren courtroom quickly filled when Ghaith’s lawyer, Stanley Cohen, announced his client would testify on his own behalf.
Ghaith is pleading not guilty to charges of conspiring to kill Americans and aiding al-Qaida, The Associated Press reported. The al-Qaida spokesman is one of the highest ranking al-Qaida members the U.S. has ever tried in a civilian court and faces life in prison if convicted, Reuters reported.
With the help of an Arabic translator, Ghaith told jurors of his first meeting with bin Laden in June of 2001, where he was recruited to speak to the men at Taliban training camps.
“Osama bin Laden told me, ‘The training camps involve too many things, weapons, training, roughness, a hard life. I need you to change that to merciful hearts. I want you to train them to have that inside them,’” said Ghaith, according to Bloomberg.com.
Ghaith told the court he had heard bin Laden might be a terrorist but that he "wanted to get to know that person," reported the AP.
"I wanted to see what he had, what is it he wanted," he said.
Ghaith also recounted being summoned to meet with bin Laden the night of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I want to deliver a message to the world … I want you to deliver the message," bin Laden said, according to Ghaith’s testimony. Following that discussion bin Laden purportedly wanted to know Ghaith’s opinion on the attacks.
“I said, ‘I don’t have any military experience but politically, America – if it’s proven you are the one who did this – will not settle until it accomplishes two things – to kill you and to topple the state of the Taliban,’” Ghaith testified.
Ghaith was captured by U.S.
authorities last March on his way from Jordan to Kuwait, Bloomberg.com
reported. Prosecutors are trying to make the case that after Ghaith became al-Qaida’s
spokesman following the Sept. 11 attacks he recruited others to join the cause
while warning of other attacks on America.