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Home / Press Release / Al Qaeda Propagandist Sentenced to Life in Prison in Civilian Court
September 23, 2014

Al Qaeda Propagandist Sentenced to Life in Prison in Civilian Court

New York City – Human Rights First today said that the trial  of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, underscores that justice in terrorism cases is best served in federal court. This morning Judge Lewis Kaplan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York sentenced, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, to life in prison. 

“As Americans debate how to respond to concerns about emerging terrorist groups, the trial and sentence given to Sulaiman Abu Ghaith by a civilian federal court are important reminders that the federal courts are one of our strongest tools in the fight,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar, who has monitored the trial. “The U.S. federal court system is very hard on anyone who participates in terrorism against Americans.”
Abu Ghaith acted as a spokesman for Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.  He was arrested abroad by U.S. authorities in 2013 and brought to New York for trial.  Just one year later, he was convicted by a jury of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, conspiring to provide material support or resources, knowing or intending that they would be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, a conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, and providing such material support or resources.

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.                

“Today’s decision confirms that there is no need for a parallel quasi-justice system to continue to operate, inefficiently and at enormous taxpayer expense, at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba,” added Eviatar.

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.

For more information or to speak with Eviatar, contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3323.