Shoe-bomb witness testifies from UK at NY trial
NEW YORK (AP) — Jurors at the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law watched him threaten there would be no end to the "storm of airplanes" on videotapes made in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks Monday just before a British man testified by video from London that he trained to blow up a plane in late 2001 with a shoe bomb.
Prosecutors showed the New York jury video clips of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, threatening Americans in the weeks after the terror attacks to set the stage for testimony from Saajid Badat, a 34-year-old United Kingdom resident who refuses to testify in the United States because he faces terrorism charges in Boston that could send him to prison for life.
Badat said he trained with failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid to carry out separate shoe-bomb attacks aimed at downing planes over America or in Europe in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks were carried out with four hijacked airplanes.
He pleaded guilty in England in 2005 to conspiring to harm an aircraft and served six years in prison before his sentence was shortened through his cooperation. His plea came in connection with a 2001 plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.
Prosecutors are using Badat's testimony to show that Abu Ghaith, as al-Qaida's spokesman, was in the thick of a conspiracy to create a second wave of airborne terrorism attacks while the debris left by the toppled twin towers of the World Trade Center was still burning.
Abu Ghaith is charged with conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to al-Qaida. If convicted, the 48-year-old onetime imam at a Kuwaiti mosque could face life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
Immediately before Badat's testimony, prosecutors showed jurors a 50-second clip of a 5-minute videotape of Abu Ghaith from Oct. 9, 2001, in which he threatens that "America must know that the storm of airplanes will not abate, with God's permission." Alluding to martyrdom, he said there were "youths who are yearning to death just as Americans yearn to live."
Then prosecutors showed nearly 2 minutes of an 8-minute videotape from Oct. 13, 2001, in which Abu Ghaith threatens America again, saying some in the U.S. had not understood the gravity of his earlier message.
"The storm of aircrafts will not stop," he said at one point, according to an English translation of Arabic statements that was introduced as a court exhibit. "We strongly advise Muslims in America and the Britain, the children and those who reject unjust American policies, not to board aircraft and we advise them not to live in high-rises and tall buildings."
Despite many months spent in al-Qaida training camps and locations in Afghanistan from 1999 through 2001, Badat testified that he did not recognize a photograph of Abu Ghaith and did not recall having ever seen or heard him.
Badat said he had seen bin Laden as many as 50 times during his time in camps and guest houses.
During testimony at a 2011 Brooklyn terrorism trial, Badat said bin Laden told him shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks that he believed a follow-up terrorism attack could doom the American economy.
He said he backed out of the shoe-bomb plot in December 2001 because of his reluctance, fear and the effect it would have on his family.
Abu Ghaith is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks.