Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law has hired a new lawyer to defend him in the trial he faces in the United States, and the appointment stirred some controversy in the court.
Suleiman Abu Ghaith, who appeared in a video September 12, 2001 with the Al-Qaeda leader claiming responsibility for the deadly 9/11 strikes on US targets, is accused of conspiring to kill Americans. He has pleaded not guilty.
Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan set a January 7, 2014 date to start his trial. The 47-year-old Kuwaiti could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted.
But Abu Ghaith, appearing relaxed, already stirred some controversy, in a preliminary hearing Wednesday, explaining his decision to drop court-appointed attorneys in favor of Stanley Cohen, who has experience defending Islamists, and is the target of two tax-related court cases.
Kaplan told the defendant that there could be a potential conflict of interest if Cohen were to be found guilty and jailed during his case — and that that could leave him with no defense.
But Abu Ghaith rejected the judge’s reservations.
Abu Ghaith’s earlier defense attorneys also questioned whether Abu Ghaith can get a fair jury trial in a courthouse just a few blocks from the site of Manhattan’s World Trade Center, where nearly 3,000 people died in the September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda attacks.