Abu Ghaith’s lawyer declined comment after the hearing.
The fact that the defendant is being tried in federal district court is controversial in itself. Republicans are criticizing the Obama administration for bringing Abu Ghaith to New York instead of sending him to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President Barack Obama has promised to close Guantanamo, where terror detainees generally have fewer legal rights and due process than they would have in a U.S. federal court. But critics say a suspect like Abu Ghaith should be held at Guantanamo and treated as an enemy combatant rather than a “common criminal” with full rights in an everyday court.
A month after 9/11, Abu Ghaith called on every Muslim to join the fight against the United States, declaring that “jihad is a duty.”
“The Americans must know that the storm of airplanes will not stop, God willing, and there are thousands of young people who are as keen about death as Americans are about life,” he said in the Oct. 9, 2001, speech.
Two days before that, he sat with bin Laden and current al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri against a rocky backdrop and spoke for nearly five minutes in one of the terror group’s most widely watched propaganda videos.
Kuwaiti by birth but stripped of his citizenship after 9/11, Abu Ghaith was an imam at a Kuwaiti mosque and taught high school religion classes until 2000, when he headed to Afghanistan. It’s not clear when he met his wife, bin Laden’s daughter Fatima, but a U.S. intelligence official on Friday said bin Laden probably introduced them. The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Fatima was bin Laden’s eldest daughter. Estimates on the number of his children range up to 23. He had four wives, the maximum Islam allows.