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Monday, March 24, 2014 - 9:28pm
He was suddenly among the most notorious, hunted men in the world, but in the hours after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden wasn't concerned with running or hiding.
His first order of business was instead to see Kuwaiti religious scholar Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, said federal prosecutor John Cronan Monday during his closing argument in Abu Ghaith's trial on charges he aided terrorists.
The trial, in its third week, is being held blocks away from the site of Manhattan's World Trade Center, and several survivors of the attacks and family members of victims were in attendance Monday.
Cronan told the jury Abu Ghaith played a crucial role as the organization's principal spokesman, helping "restore al Qaeda's trove of new terrorists" as missions turned its members into martyrs.
"Without people like him, al Qaeda dies with every suicide attack," Cronan said.
Abu Ghaith testified last week he never joined the ranks of al Qaeda and assisted bin Laden only as a speaker on religious and spiritual topics. He conceded to taking on a larger role after the September 11 meeting, when bin Laden asked him to help "deliver a message to the world," and he appeared in a series of videos making passionate calls for further attacks on Americans.
Defense attorney Stanley Cohen accused prosecutors of using 9/11 imagery in lieu of evidence of his client's guilt and told the jurors he had counted 172 references to Osama bin Laden and 9/11 during the first half of the prosecution's closing argument.
"It was intended to sweep you away in anguish and pain and to ask for retaliation," he told the panel. "It was intended to make you look away from the evidence."
He said none of the government's witnesses conclusively tied his client to terrorism-related activities, including a terrorism specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and two cooperating former al Qaeda members.
Cohen asked the jury to send its own message to the world with its verdict: that the American system of justice works fairly, and that simply calling someone a terrorist is not enough for a criminal conviction.
"This is Abu Ghaith," said the attorney, motioning to his client. "He's a Muslim, an Arab, an imam. He's a human being."
The jury is expected to begin its deliberations Tuesday morning.