Abu Ghaith Guilty Verdict Demonstrates Effectiveness of Federal Courts

New York City – Today a jury found Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, guilty on all counts in a New York federal court. He is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. Human Rights First noted that the jury verdict confirms once again that the civilian federal court system is a far better place to try suspected terrorists than the Guantanamo military commissions.  The Abu Ghaith case went to trial just one year after the defendant was arrested and charged.  An impartial and carefully vetted jury listened to almost three weeks of testimony, reviewed the evidence and found the defendant guilty on all counts.

“This case is particularly striking if you compare it to the Guantanamo military commissions, where the five men accused of masterminding the 9/11 terrorist attacks still aren’t anywhere near being brought to justice, even though they’ve been in U.S. custody for more than a decade,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar, who has been present in the courtroom for the entire Abu Ghaith trial and often observes military commissions proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. “While Abu Ghaith went to trial within a year in a U.S. federal court that has clear laws and international credibility, the legal proceedings at Guantanamo are dragging on for years as the lawyers argue over what rules apply and the judge struggles to determine the relevant laws without any legal precedent to guide him. In comparison to the civilian courts, the military commissions are a fiasco and a national embarrassment.”

The government claimed Abu Ghaith was a spokesman for al Qaeda.  He pled not guilty and went to trial. The jury found him guilty of providing material support for terrorism and conspiracy to kill Americans.  Human Rights First notes that federal courts have completed nearly 500 cases related to international terrorism since 9/11.  Of those, 67 cases have involved individuals captured overseas, according to Department of Justice data obtained by Human Rights First in a Freedom of Information Act request.

Meanwhile, military commissions have convicted only 8 individuals since 9/11.  Two of those convictions were recently overturned on appeal.

For more information about prosecuting terrorism cases, please see Human Rights First’s fact sheets Federal Courts Continue to Take Lead in Counterterrorism Prosecutions and Myth v. Fact: Trying Terrorism Suspects in Federal Court.  For more information about Human Rights First’s plan for closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, please read the organization’s blueprint How to Close Guantanamo.


Published on March 26, 2014


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