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United States of America v. Sulaiman Abu Gaiyth

Court District Court for the Southern District of New York, United States
Case number S13-98-Cr-1023
Decision title Jury verdict
Decision date 26 March 2014
  • United States of America
  • Sulayman Abu Gaith
Other names
  • Suleiman Abu Gaith
  • Sulaiman Abu Gaith
Categories Material support to terrorism, Terrorism
Keywords 11 September 2001, conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, Terrorism
Other countries involved
  • Afghanistan
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Sulaiman Abu Ghaith (49), a Kuwaiti Islamist, was considered an official Al-Qaeda spokesman. He is married to one of Osama bin Laden's daughters. After the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, he praised the attacks in a series of impassioned videotaped messages and promised more attacks to follow, threatening with reprisals for the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan, saying, "Americans should know, the storm of the planes will not stop... There are thousands of the Islamic nation's youths who are eager to die just as the Americans are eager to live".

Initially living in Afghanistan, he supposedly fled the country in 2002 and went to Iran, where he lived under house arrest until 2013, when he left for Turkey. Turkey intended to deport him to Kuwait, but as he passed Jordan, he was caught by the Jordanian authorities and extradited to the US. Here he was put on trial for terrorism charges (conspiracy to kill Americans, and providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to do so). He pleaded not guilty, but the jury disagreed: on 26 March 2014, he was found guilty of all charges. The sentencing judgment is expectedly due on 8 September 2014.

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Procedural history

Abu Gaith was captured by Jordanian authorities in 2013. On 1 March 2013 he was indicted by the US for terrorism charges; on 7 March he was handed over to US authorities. He pleaded not guilty.

On 20 February 2014 the New York District Court's judge allowed Guantanamo detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, self-proclaimed 9/11-mastermind, to answer written questions from Abu Ghaith's lawyers. These aswers were given a month later, on 17 March: Sheikh Mohamed issued a statement in defense of Abu Ghaith, claiming that he had had no involvement in al Qaeda's military activities.

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Related developments

The sentencing judgment is expected to be issued on 8 September 2014; however, Abu Gaith's lawyer will probably challenge the judgment, stating that there were "a number of compelling issues" for appeal.

He was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014.

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Legally relevant facts

Abu Gaith was indicted for serving Al Qaeda, a terrorist organisation, from at least May 2001 until late 2002. He was suspected of urging others to swear allegiance to Bin Laden, speaking on behalf of and in support of al Qaeda's mission, and warning that attacks similar to those of 11 September 2001 would continue (para. 3 indictment). The indictment's statutory allegations include conspiring, confederating and agreeing, with other known and unknown individuals, to kill US nationals (para. 4); more specifically, he was suspected of directly assisting Bin Laden by acting as his spokesman (para. 6). 

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Core legal questions

  • Is Sulayman Abu Gaith guilty of the crime of terrroism?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Section 2332b(g)(5) of Title 18 US Code (federal crime of terrorism against the United States, citizens and residents of the United States, and their property).

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Court's holding and analysis

On 26 March 2014 Abu Gaith was found guilty on all charges by the jury. A judgment will follow on 8 September this year.

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials