Bin Laden son in law charged with conspiring to kill Americans

Like father, like son in law. Not being charged with actually committing a terrorist act, there may be some justification for trying Sulaiman Abu Ghaith in a civilian court. But the fact that he is related to Osama bin Laden could draw too much attention to the trial from jihadists - a scenario that should worry New York authorities.

New York Times:

John P. Cronan, an assistant United States attorney, said in court that Mr. Abu Ghaith had spoken at length with United States law enforcement officials after his arrest by federal authorities on Feb. 28. Mr. Cronan cited a 22-page document detailing his statements but did not characterize the statements, which were not made public.

The appearance of Mr. Abu Ghaith before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of United States District Court, in the cavernous, wood-paneled ceremonial courtroom in Lower Manhattan, just blocks from ground zero, the site of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, was not without symbolism. But details of both the defendant's role in Al Qaeda and his arrest remained unclear.

Slight, trim and balding, with a manicured gray beard, Mr. Abu Ghaith was led into the courtroom wearing handcuffs and a blue prison smock as about a dozen United States marshals -- an unusually large complement -- provided security. His handcuffs were removed for the proceeding.

Mr. Abu Ghaith said little beyond a few one-word replies to questions from the judge.

Philip L. Weinstein, one of three lawyers the judge appointed to represent him, entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf during the proceeding, which lasted less than 20 minutes.

Mr. Cronan asked that Mr. Abu Ghaith be held without bail. Mr. Weinstein did not challenge the request but left open the possibility of making a bail application later. Mr. Cronan said the government would take three weeks to present its case at trial, but no date was set.

Abu Ghaith has been called an al-Qaeda "spokesman" in the past which would mean he gave support to terrorism - an entirely different charge. But if these terrorism trials in civilian court have taught us anything, it is that the charges should be kept as simple as possible for the jury.

One other interesting note: The Times is reporting that Abu Ghaith lived in Iran for a decade before being picked up in Turkey by an unknown country and transferred to Jordan where the US took custody of him.