Former al-Qaida spokesman gets life prison term in NY

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Former al-Qaida spokesman gets life prison term in NY
In this courtroom sketch, from left, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith stands next to his attorney, Stanley Cohen, as courtroom deputy Andrew Mohan, reads the verdict and Judge Lewis Kaplan, right, listens, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at federal court in New York. Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and the voice of fiery al-Qaida propaganda videotapes after the Sept. 11 attacks, was convicted Wednesday of conspiring to kill Americans for his role as the terror group's spokesman. The verdict came after about six hours of deliberation over two days in the case against Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this undated image taken from video and released by the United States Attorney’s Office, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, left, addresses the camera as Osama bin Laden listens. On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, a federal jury sitting in New York returned a guilty verdict against Abu Ghaith, convicting him of conspiring to kill Americans. Abu Ghaith was al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States. The guilty verdict could send Abu Ghaith to prison for the rest of his life. (AP Photo/United States attorney’s Office)
In this courtroom sketch Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, right, testifies at his trial Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in New York, on charges he conspired to kill Americans and aid al-Qaida as a spokesman for the terrorist group. Listening to testimony are Judge Lewis Kaplan, upper left, and clerk Andrew Mohan, center left, as an image of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-professed architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, appears on a video monitor. In his surprise testimony, Abu Ghaith recounted the night of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when bin Laden sent a messenger to drive him into a mountainous area for a meeting inside a cave in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this courtroom sketch, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, right, testifies at his trial Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in New York, on charges he conspired to kill Americans and aid al-Qaida as a spokesman for the terrorist group. Listening to testimony are Judge Lewis Kaplan, center, and defense attorney Stanley Cohen, at podium. In his surprise testimony, Abu Ghaith recounted the night of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the al-Qaida leader sent a messenger to drive him into a mountainous area for a meeting inside a cave in Afghanistan. "Did you learn what happened? We are the ones who did it," Abu Ghaith, recalled bin Laden telling him. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this March 3, 2014, courtroom sketch from files, defense attorney Stanley Cohen, right, sits next to a translator during the jury selection for Cohen's client Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, left, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, during Abu Ghaith's trial in New York on charges that he conspired to kill Americans and support terrorists in his role as al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks. It can be an uncomfortable life for any defense attorney representing unpopular clients, but lawyers who agree to speak on behalf of people accused of plotting to kill Americans in terrorist attacks walk difficult road. Cohen says, “You get stigmatized. Folks avoid you. You get ostracized. It’s terrible for a mate to see terrible publicity, to see you vilified, to avoid social settings because you know it will lead to confrontations.” (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams, File)
In this courtroom sketch, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, left, listens as U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan stands to speak Monday, March 3, 2014 during jury selection at the start of Abu Ghaith's trial in New York on charges that he conspired to kill Americans and support terrorists in his role as al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks. Abu Ghaith is Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks. Seated next to Abu Ghaith is a translater, next to defense attorney Stanley Cohen, right. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this courtroom sketch, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, left, listens as U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan stands to speak Monday, March 3, 2014 during jury selection at the start of Abu Ghaith's trial in New York on charges that he conspired to kill Americans and support terrorists in his role as al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks. Abu Ghaith is Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks. Seated next to Abu Ghaith is a translater, next to defense attorney Stanley Cohen, right. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
In this courtroom sketch, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, center, in beige suit, stands next to his defense attorney Stanley Cohen Monday, March 3, 2014 during jury selection at the start of Abu Ghaith's trial in New York on charges that he conspired to kill Americans and support terrorists in his role as al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks. Abu Ghaith is Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
The Daniel Patrick Moynihan federal courthouse, center, is the site of the trial for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Monday, March 3, 2014 in New York. Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, goes on trial Monday on charges he conspired to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida's mouthpiece after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
The Daniel Patrick Moynihan federal courthouse is the site of the trial for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Monday, March 3, 2014 in New York. Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, goes on trial Monday on charges he conspired to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida's mouthpiece after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
FILE - This image made from video provided by by Al-Jazeera shows Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and spokesman. Abu Ghaith took the witness stand on his own behalf Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at his terrorism trial in New York, testifying that bin Laden asked him in 2001 to lecture to training camp recruits. The 48-year-old Kuwaiti-born defendant has pleaded not guilty to charges that he conspired to kill Americans and aid al-Qaida. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera, File)
In this courtroom drawing, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, leans forward as he is handcuffed in U.S. federal court in Manhattan, after a hearing where he pleaded not guilty Friday, March 8, 2013, to plotting against Americans in his role as al-Qaida's top spokesman. The case marks a legal victory for the Obama administration, which has long sought to charge senior al-Qaida suspects in U.S. federal courts instead of holding them at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., accompanied by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill In Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013, about the capture of Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith , Osama bin Laden's spokesman and son-in-law has been captured by U.S. intelligence officials, officials said Thursday, in what a senior congressman called a "very significant victory" in the ongoing fight against al-Qaida. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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NEW YORK (AP) - Defiant to the end, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison for acting as the voice of al-Qaida after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, telling a judge that there would be a price to pay for trying to "bury me alive."

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith - the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks - quoted from the Quran, praised Allah and suggested his case would prompt a backlash in the Muslim world.

"Today, at the same moment where you are shackling my hands and intend to bury me alive, you are at the same time unleashing the hands of hundreds of Muslim youth, and you are removing the dust of their minds, and they will join the rally of the free men," said the Kuwaiti imam. "Soon, and very soon, the whole world will see, the whole world will see the end of these theater plays that are also known as trials."

Osama Bin Laden's Son-In-Law Sentenced to Life in Prison


U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, told Abu Ghaith his defiance was further proof he deserved life behind bars.

"You haven't evidenced any doubt about the justification for what was done, and as recently as 15 minutes ago, you continue to threaten," the judge said. "You, sir, in my assessment, are committed to doing everything you can to assist in carrying out al-Qaida's agenda of killing Americans, guilty or innocent, combatant or noncombatant, adult or babies, without regard to the carnage that's caused."

Kaplan pointed to what he called "revealing" video, used as evidence at Abu Ghaith's trial, showing the defendant at Osama bin Laden's side as bin Laden bragged that he had predicted that the attack on the World Trade Center would cause the twin towers to collapse.

"Bin Laden laughed as he explained that," the judge said. "Others in the room did. You, at bin Laden's right hand, evidenced in your facial expressions amusement. ... It was funny. It was a success, the massacre."

The defendant showed no emotion as he heard the sentence. Afterward, he smiled and shook hands with his attorneys before being led out of the courtroom.

Abu Ghaith, 48, was convicted in March on conspiracy charges that he answered Osama bin Laden's request in the hours after the 2001 attacks to speak on the widely circulated videos used to recruit new followers willing to go on suicide missions like the 19 who hijacked four commercial jets on Sept. 11.

The jury heard audio from October 2001 of the defendant warning, "The storm of airplanes will not stop" - evidence that the government alleged showed the defendant knew in advance about the failed shoe-bomb airline attack by Richard Reid in December 2001.

Abu Ghaith took the witness stand in his own defense, calmly denying he was an al-Qaida recruiter and claiming his role was a religious one aimed at encouraging all Muslims to rise up against their oppressors. He insisted he agreed to meet with bin Laden in a cave on the night of Sept. 11, 2001, out of respect for bin Laden's standing as a sheik.

"I didn't go to meet with him to bless if he had killed hundreds of Americans or not. I went to meet with him to know what he wanted," Abu Ghaith said.

In asking for leniency on Tuesday, defense attorney Stanley Cohen argued that, though Abu Ghaith engaged in fiery rhetoric, there was no evidence that his client directly participated in any terror plots. He described Abu Ghaith as someone who found himself "caught in the crossroads of history."

Prosecutor John P. Cronan, in arguing for a life term, said Abu Ghaith was more valuable to al-Qaida than a suicide bomber because of his willingness to use religion to attract more recruits for the "murderous mission" led by bin Laden.

"He did not just find himself in a bad situation he couldn't get out of," Cronan said. "He was all in. At no point did Sulaiman Abu Ghaith back away from that commitment."

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Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.
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