London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, pleaded not guilty on Friday to plotting against Americans in his role as Al-Qaeda’s top spokesman.
This comes as part of a landmark case being tried by the United States against a terror suspect after Abu Ghaith was captured last week in Jordan. Abu Ghaith pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to kill Americans.
The Al-Qaeda spokesman, who lately announced his split from the terrorist group, also gave an “extensive post-arrest statement” totaling 22-pages following his arrival in the US earlier this month. Assistant US Attorney John P. Cronan refused to give details of Abu Ghaith’s testimony.
Former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Peter King had initially announced that the CIA and FBI were responsible for Abu Ghaith’s capture on Thursday. “Definitely, one by one, we are getting the top echelons of Al-Qaeda”, King said. He added, “I give the [Obama] administration credit for this: it’s steady and it’s unrelenting and it’s very successful.”
Abu Ghaith previously served as an official spokesman for the terrorist organization, while King claimed that he was also directly involved in the planning of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Islamist sources in Britain confirmed that the CIA was involved in Abu Ghaith’s capture in Jordan, adding that he was in the process of travelling to Kuwait from Turkey when he was apprehended.
The Islamic Observatory, a London-based human rights organization, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Abu Ghaith had left Turkey on March 1 after being deported by Ankara. He was intending to travel to his homeland Kuwait, with a stop-over in Jordan.
Jordan refused to officially comment on Abu Ghaith’s arrest at Queen Alia International Airport. However a Jordanian source did inform Asharq Al-Awsat that security services do not usually scrutinize the names of travelers on layovers unless they attempt to officially enter the country or book a hotel room.
The well-informed Jordanian source claimed that a CIA team had tracked Abu Ghaith from Turkey, adding that Washington had initially tried to convince the Turkish government to hand over Abu Ghaith directly but that Ankara had refused. The Turkish government had initially arrested the Al-Qaeda spokesman before acquitting him of any changes but taking the decision to deport him for entering the country on a forged passport.
The source revealed that the Turkish authorities took the decision to deport Abu Ghaith back to his country of origin, Kuwait, but he was arrested in the departures lounge of Queen Alia International Airport in Amman and handed over to the CIA. The CIA team promptly returned to America with Abu Ghaith, where he is now awaiting trial.
Kuwait stripped Suleiman Abu Ghaith’s nationality in 2001, citing “national interest.” A statement issued by the Kuwaiti cabinet at the time asserted, “In the national interest and according to Article 14 of the 1959 nationality law, the council (of ministers) has approved a proposed decree to withdraw Suleiman Abu Ghaith’s nationality.”
Following his arrest in Turkey, Ankara has contacted a number of countries with the objective of securing Abu Ghaith’s deportation. A source revealed that Turkey had contacted Tehran, where Abu Ghaith had lived for a number of years prior to fleeing to Turkey; however Tehran refused to countenance his return.
Islamist sources in London informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Abu Ghaith’s health is “deteriorating” adding that he wants to be tried in Kuwait, and claims to have proof that he is not guilty of the charges laid against him.
Suleiman Jassim Abu Ghaith was born in Kuwait in 1956 and worked as a professor of Fiqh and Sharia law, as well as a preacher in the mosques of Kuwait, prior to joining the ranks of Al-Qaeda. He is well known for his opposition to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in 1990. In Kuwait, Abu Ghaith was close to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the coordinator of the 9/11 attacks who is currently facing trial in Guantanamo Bay.
In 1994 he traveled to Bosnia to fight the Serbs, staying there for two months before returning to Kuwait. Yet his travels to Bosnia and Afghanistan continued, prompting the Kuwaiti Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs to dismiss him from his role as a mosque preacher. Abu Ghaith later settled in Afghanistan with his wife and six children. Following the 9/11 attacks, Abu Ghaith—in his position as an Al-Qaeda spokesman—appeared in a video in which he praised the perpetrators and threatened more attacks, prompting the Kuwaiti government to revoke his citizenship. After the fall of the Taliban regime and the defeat of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Abu Ghaith family, together with some members of the Bin Laden family, traveled to Iran, which hosted them for a few years.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith was quoted as saying, “The actions by these young men who destroyed the United States and launched the storm of planes against it have done a good deed. They transferred the battle into the US heartland. Let the United States know that with God’s permission, the battle will continue to be waged on its territory until it leaves our lands, stops its support for the Jews, and lifts the unjust embargo on the Iraqi people who have lost more than one million children.”