9/11 mastermind's statement won't be allowed at terror trial
A Manhattan federal judge on Tuesday barred former al-Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith from presenting at his terrorism trial testimony or a statement from Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said defense lawyers waited too long to seek access to Mohammed, who is being held at the Guantánamo Bay military prison, and a 13-page statement cleared last week didn't contain admissible exculpatory evidence.
"There is no showing that he has personal knowledge of anything of importance to this matter," Kaplan said.
Abu Ghaith, 48, a Kuwaiti religious scholar who married one of Osama bin Laden's daughters, is charged with conspiring to kill Americans and using his rhetorical skills to recruit fighters and provide material support to al-Qaida.
Testimony in the case is expected to be completed on Wednesday. The defense wanted Kaplan to order a pretrial deposition or live testimony via closed circuit television from Mohammed.
After the Defense Department demanded to sit in on any defense interview with Mohammed, and Mohammed rejected that condition, Abu Ghaith's lawyers were allowed to submit written questions, subject to a government security review.
In his statement, Mohammed indicated that he was a planner of a post-Sept. 11 plot to used shoe bombs to blow up airplanes -- which prosecutors say Abu Ghaith knew about -- and that as far as he knew Abu Ghaith wasn't aware of that plan.
But Kaplan noted that Mohammed's statement was qualified -- noting only that he "personally never spoke with" Abu Ghaith about the shoe-bomb plot, and that al-Qaida media spokesmen "do not necessarily know" the details of plots and "sometimes" are not aware of the existence of an operation.
"Does he address what Suleiman Abu Ghaith knew or didn't know?" Kaplan asked. "He doesn't even touch it with a ten foot pole."
Jurors were given Tuesday off, but are scheduled to resume hearing evidence on Wednesday.