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SREENIVASAN: An important trial is underway in federal court here in New York. The defendant: Osama bin Laden’s
son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith.
For more, we are joined by Chris Matthews of The Wall Street Journal, he has been following the case.
So, this is the most senior Al-Qaeda operative tried in a federal court, you know, when there was talk about trying Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed here, there was such a huge uproar, why not for this?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Hard to say. I don’t whether it’s that politicians have just forgotten about it or the
public’s just moved on. Certainty this guy isn’t as conspicuous as KSM who planned 911 but for whatever reason the outcry
that we saw over KSM hasn’t been there.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Ok, so what did this individual do, or allegedly do?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: So, he’s charged with three counts. One, conspiring to kill Americans and then providing
material support to Al-Qaeda. And the material support is basically his words and his rhetoric. He was Al-Qaeda spokesman,
he is on multiple propaganda videos inciting violence and recruiting fighters and the government says that is how he aided
Al-Qaeda by recruiting fighters essentially.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Where did they catch him?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: They caught him—well it’s a little bit unclear—but basically it looks like he was arrested
in Turkey and then transported to Jordan where he was handed over to US law enforcement officials. He had been in Iran for
many years basically under house arrest and they arrested him- he was brought to the US in 2013.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So the prosecution’s already begun, what have we learned from them in what they think
he’s responsible for? Did he have any role in planning September 11th?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: No. And they’ve been clear that he had no role in planning September 11th or
any attacks. The strength of their case is basically his own words. They have already and will continue to show videos of
him, including on September 12th 2001, taking responsibility, saying Al-Qaeda was responsible for 911 and encouraging
Muslims to attack the US. And that constitutes material support. So they think they have a strong case. They just have to
show these videos and let them him speak for himself.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Ok. And so, what’s the timeline here? How long does this process go on?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: They said they think it’ll go about a month. We’re about a week in, so you know, it could
be sent to jury for deliberations by the end of March. It could drag on longer but they think about a month.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And then, you said you’ve been in the courtroom, you said that this is a Judge that’s
a bit no nonsense. He’s actually pushing sides quite a bit.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: He’s very much in control of the courtroom. He often will stop and ask witnesses questions
himself. He has shut down certain lines of questioning that he does not like. He is firmly in control of the courtroom.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And what are the sort of potential sentences that he could face with these charges?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: He could face life in prison. These are serious charges. Especially the conspiring to
kill Americans charge.
HARI SREENIVASAN: If there is a way that you can figure out what the defense’s strategy is, I know they
haven’t already spoken yet, but how are they planning to defend their client?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: So during their opening statement the gist of it was they’re going to make this case,
the prosecution is going to make this case about 911 and it’s not about 911, he had nothing to do with it. And they use the
phrase over and over again, ‘all this case is about is words and association’. They also have sort of a unique theory that
there is actually another Suleiman Abu Ghaith who is being detained at Guantanamo Bay
HARI SREENIVASAN: That this is the wrong guy?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Exactly. They’re saying, part of the government’s case is that Abu Ghaith was at these
camps and houses in Afghanistan giving speeches. And the defense is claiming actually it may have been the other Abu Ghaith
at these houses giving these speeches but the judge has not allowed them to pursue that line of defense so it’s unclear how
much of a defense case they’ll be able to make on that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Chris Matthews from the Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Thanks for having me.
The post Bin Laden’s son-in-law
stands trial in federal court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.