Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Bin Laden’s son-in-law, was convicted this week of conspiring to kill Americans and a series of other terror-related charges.
Abu Ghaith, was indicted nearly a year ago in The Southern District of New York, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, for his role in the September 11th attacks and as a senior associate of Bin Laden. Since news of Abu Ghaith’s indictment was first released last March, there has been a great deal of debate regarding whether SDNY was the appropriate forum for the trial. While many believed SDNY could hold a fair, safe trial for such a high-profile case, many opponents believed a military commission was a far more appropriate venue.
At the completion of Abu Ghaith’s trial, many are praising this trial as proving that it is possible to hold a high-profile terror case in federal court, rather than at a military commission. Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement this past Wednesday praising the SDNY and reiterating his belief that federal court was the appropriate venue for this trial. In part, Holder said:
“We never doubted the ability of our Article III court system to administer justice swiftly in this case, as it has in hundreds of other cases involving terrorism defendants. It would be a good thing for the country if this case has the result of putting that political debate to rest. This outcome vindicates the government’s approach to securing convictions against not only this particular defendant, but also other senior leaders of al Qaeda.”
While I did not originally support the decision to hold the trial in the SDNY, I have been pleasantly surprised by the outcome, and agree with Attorney General Holder. My doubts centered primarily on the difficulties of securing an impartial jury in a case like a major terrorism case, particularly in a city so affected by al Qaeda’s actions. However, as Attorney General Holder has said, this case demonstrates that our justice system is capable of handling major terrorism cases fairly and efficiently, a fact which is undoubtedly reassuring for many as the debate rages on regarding Guantanamo Bay Detention Center’s fate.
Kelly Ann Taddonio, Senior Research Fellow
Center for Policy & Research