9/11 Mastermind Defends Bin Laden’s Kin in Statement

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, defended Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law as an eloquent speaker who didn’t have anything to do with military operations.

Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, 48, is on trial in Manhattan federal court on charges that he helped his father-in-law recruit terrorists and knew of plots to attack Americans, including a scheme to detonate shoe bombs on airplanes.

“I personally never spoke with Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth about the shoe bomb operation,” Mohammed said in a written statement, cited in a filing yesterday by Abu Ghayth’s lawyers. “Those tasked with giving statements to the media do not necessarily know all the details of an operation and are sometimes even unaware of the very existence of the operation.”

Abu Ghayth’s lawyers have sought Mohammed’s testimony saying his knowledge of al-Qaeda’s operations and responses contain a wealth of exculpatory information to Abu Ghayth. The lawyers provided Mohammed, who is being prosecuted in a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with a list of several hundred questions, with Mohammed responding in a 14-page declaration, according to documents filed in court.

Bin Laden appointed Abu Ghayth as the head of the As-Sahab Foundation for Media Publications, the media outlet for al-Qaeda, Mohammed said.

The task would be given based on “rhetorical ability of the person or the strength and discipline of his speech,” according to Mohammed. “Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghayth was commissioned for this mission.”

Abu Ghayth’s lawyers asked Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to order Mohammed’s testimony to be taken via live, closed-circuit television. The judge hasn’t ruled on the request.

The case is United States of America v. Suleiman Abu Ghayth. 98-cr-01023. U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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