A terrorist convicted in the U.K. can testify for U.S. prosecutors in a trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, a federal judge ruled.
Lawyers for Abu Ghayth also can depose Salim Hamdan, bin Laden’s driver, in preparation for his defense at the trial rescheduled to begin Feb. 24, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan said today.
Prosecutors in the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara allege that Abu Ghayth served alongside bin Laden, appeared with him and a bin Laden deputy, and spoke on behalf of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
Kaplan granted the government’s request to call as a witness an unidentified al-Qaeda operative convicted in the U.K. of attempting to blow up an aircraft with a bomb hidden in his shoe.
While prosecutors didn’t identify the witness, the description matches Saajid Muhammad Badat, who is imprisoned in the U.K. and has been cooperating with U.S. authorities. He testified for the U.S. in 2012 at the Brooklyn, New York, federal trial of a man later convicted of attempting to blow up the New York City subway system.
Prosecutors say their witness was present in terrorist training camps where Abu Ghayth gave speeches when he was receiving warfare training.
Kaplan also approved a request by Abu Ghayth’s lawyers to take the sworn testimony before trial of Hamdan, who lives in Yemen. Defense lawyers said Hamdan, who can’t travel to the U.S., may testify that he spent considerable time with bin Laden and “did not observe Abu Ghayth engage in any acts specified in the indictment.”
The defense team also said Hamdan could testify that he never saw Abu Ghayth in possession of al-Qaeda “brevity cards” that contained coded names and locations of “some inner circle members and leaders” of the terrorist group.
Abu Ghayth was among al-Qaeda’s most influential surviving leaders after U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in May 2011, the U.S. has said. He is the highest-ranking member of al-Qaeda brought to stand trial in a federal court in the U.S., according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Abu Ghayth was captured as he sought to travel to Kuwait from Jordan by the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI after a decade-long manhunt, the U.S. said. He was brought to New York in March.
Geoffrey Stewart, a lawyer for Abu Ghayth, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment on Kaplan’s rulings.
The case is U.S. v. Abu Ghayth, 98-cr-01023, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).