Al Qaeda Spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghayth Convicted in Manhattan Federal Court of Conspiring to Kill Americans, Providing Material Support to Terrorists
Abu Ghayth Appeared with Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri After September 11, 2001, Threatening Additional Attacks Against the United States
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 26, 2014|
Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States; Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; John P. Carlin, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; George Venizelos, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and William J. Bratton, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York (NYPD); announced today that Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, a/k/a “Salman Abu Gayth,” Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and spokesman for al Qaeda, was found guilty today in Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. Ghayth is scheduled to be sentenced on September 8, 2014, at 2:30 p.m., before U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who presided over the three-week trial.
Attorney General Eric Holder said, “This verdict is a major milestone in the government’s unrelenting efforts to pursue justice against those involved with the September 11 attacks. I can imagine no more fitting outcome and no stronger message to those who would harm our nation and its people: that no amount of distance or time can weaken America’s resolve to pursue, capture, and hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law. I want to especially note that this verdict has proven that proceedings such as these can safely occur in the city I am proud to call home, as in other locations across our great nation. It was appropriate that this defendant, who publicly rejoiced over the attacks on the World Trade Center, faced trial in the shadow of where those buildings once stood. 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. I want to personally congratulate U.S. Attorney Bharara, his team in the Southern District of New York, and those who assisted in our National Security Division for successfully prosecuting this case with the utmost integrity and professionalism. I also wish to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York City Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, and Mayor de Blasio and the City of New York. This was truly a team effort.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Sulaiman Abu Ghayth arrived in the United States to face American justice on March 1, 2013, and in barely over a year, he has been tried and convicted and faces a possible life sentence. A jury unanimously found that Abu Ghayth not only conspired to provide, and actually provided, material support to al Qaeda but also conspired to kill Americans. He was more than just Osama bin Laden’s propaganda minister. Within hours after the devastating 9/11 attacks, Abu Ghayth was using his position in al Qaeda’s homicidal hierarchy to persuade others to pledge themselves to al Qaeda in the cause of murdering more Americans. Like the others who have faced terrorism charges in Manhattan’s federal courthouse before him, Abu Ghayth received a fair trial, after which a unanimous jury rendered its verdict, justly holding him accountable for his crimes. We hope this verdict brings some small measure of comfort to the families of the victims of al Qaeda’s murderous designs.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said, “This case highlights our resolve to find and bring to justice those who plot to attack our citizens and our interests around the world. As the face and voice of al Qaeda in the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Abu Ghayth conspired with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and announced to the world al Qaeda’s deadly intentions to continue to attack America. Today, he stands convicted and he will face justice for his role in al Qaeda’s lethal plot to kill Americans. I want to thank all of the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this result.”
FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said, “A Manhattan jury found Abu Ghayth guilty for not only supporting a terrorist organization but conspiring to kill Americans. Like a consigliere for the mob or the chief of staff to a corrupt foreign leader, Abu Ghayth was the spokesman, confidant, and senior adviser to bin Laden’s organization. Abu Ghayth looked to better al Qaeda’s reputation at every turn—even just minutes after the 9/11 attacks—offering advice and counsel to the organization’s senior leadership. He encouraged others to abandon the true tenets of their faith, swearing bayat to the twisted ideology. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force will relentlessly pursue anyone who supports this radical, violent terrorist agenda.”
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said, “I applaud the members of the jury who wasted no time when coming to a decision to convict this preacher of hate for his involvement in attacks to kill Americans. I hope this verdict will bring some comfort to the families of the victims of September 11, 2001.”
According to the evidence presented at trial, and other public proceedings in Manhattan federal court:
Since around 1989, al Qaeda has been an international terrorist organization, dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence. Osama bin Laden served as the leader or “emir” of al Qaeda until his death on or about May 2, 2011. Members of al Qaeda typically have pledged an oath of allegiance, called bayat, to bin Laden and to al Qaeda.
The core purpose of al Qaeda, as stated by bin Laden and other leaders, is to support violent attacks against property and nationals, both military and civilian, of the United States and other countries. Between 1989 and 2001, al Qaeda established training camps, guest houses, and business operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries for the purpose of training and supporting its agenda of violence and murder. Members and associates of al Qaeda have executed a number of terrorist attacks, all in furtherance of the organization’s stated conspiracy to kill Americans, including the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, which killed approximately 2,976 people.
From at least May 2001 up to around 2002, Ghayth served alongside Osama bin Laden, appearing with bin Laden and his then-deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, speaking on behalf of the terrorist organization and in support of its mission, and warning that attacks similar to those of September 11, 2001, would continue.
In particular, around May 2001, Ghayth urged individuals at a guest house in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to swear bayat to bin Laden. On the evening of September 11, 2001, immediately after the terrorist attacks on the United States, bin Laden summoned Ghayth and asked for his assistance, which he agreed to provide. On the morning of September 12, 2001, Ghayth, appeared with bin Laden and Zawahiri and spoke on behalf of al Qaeda, warning the United States and its allies that “[a] great army is gathering against you” and called upon “the nation of Islam” to do battle against “the Jews, the Christians, and the Americans.” Also, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Ghayth delivered a speech in which he addressed the then-U.S. Secretary of State and warned that “the storms shall not stop, especially the Airplanes Storm” and advised Muslims, children, and opponents of the United States “not to board any aircraft and not to live in high rises.” At this time, in Afghanistan, bin Laden and others within al Qaeda were plotting to detonate shoe bombs aboard flights within or en route to the United States.
Thereafter, Ghayth arranged to be and was successfully smuggled from Afghanistan into Iran in 2002.
Ghayth, 48, was convicted of one count of conspiring to kill United States nationals, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b); one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339A; and one count of providing material support to terrorists, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339A. The offenses carry a maximum term of life in prison. The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
The convictions of Abu Ghayth are the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force—which principally consists of agents and detectives of the FBI and the NYPD—the United States Marshals Service, and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Department of State also provided assistance.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys John P. Cronan, Nicholas J. Lewin, and Michael Ferrara of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jolie Zimmerman of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Tara M. LaMorte of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Follow the FBI’s New York Office on Twitter. Sign up for our to receive the latest information from the FBI’s New York Office on breaking news, arrests, and fugitives.