Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law pleaded not guilty on Friday to plotting against Americans in his role as al-Qaeda’s top spokesman as a landmark case trying a terror suspect on U.S. soil moves forward.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith entered the plea through a lawyer to one count of conspiracy to kill Americans after being captured in Jordan over the past week.
The case marks a legal victory for the Obama administration, which has long sought to charge senior al-Qaeda suspects in U.S. federal courts instead of holding them at the military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the capture of Abu Ghaith on Thursday, saying “no amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America’s enemies to justice.”
The Justice Department said Abu Ghaith, a former mosque preacher and teacher, was the spokesman for al-Qaeda, working alongside bin Laden and current leader Ayman al-Zawahri, since at least May 2001.
Federal vs. military
Several Republican lawmakers said Abu Ghaith should be considered an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo, where he could be questioned more thoroughly.Since 2001, 67 foreign terror suspects have been convicted in U.S. federal courts, according to watchdog group Human Rights First.By comparison, of the thousands of detainees swept up and held at Guantanamo Bay, only seven were convicted by military tribunals held at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, the watchdog group said.