NEW YORK (AP) — A man convicted in the United Kingdom in the 2001 shoe bomb plot can testify through a video link at the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and former spokesman, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The testimony will be used at the trial next month of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that he conspired to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
The identity of the man the government planned to call as a witness through a video link was not disclosed in court papers, but the description fit Saajid Badat, whose videotaped testimony was shown at the 2012 New York City trial of a man convicted in a foiled plot to attack the New York City subway system in 2009.
Badat was convicted in London in a 2001 plot to down an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. He said at that trial that he refused a request to testify in person in the U.S. because he remains under indictment in Boston on charges alleging he conspired with failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and he has been told he'd be arrested if he set foot in the United States.
Likewise, the cooperating witness in the Abu Ghaith case was indicted in Boston in the shoe-bomb plot and has been told he will be arrested if he travels to the United States, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan noted in his written opinion.
The judge said the man's testimony was relevant to the charges against Abu Ghaith because he was involved in a post-Sept. 11 plot to bomb airplanes in the United States at about the same time that Abu Ghaith appeared in videos threatening that "the storm of the airplanes will not stop" and advising Muslims in America and Great Britain to stay off aircraft.
"That this plot existed at approximately the same time that Abu Ghaith appeared in videotapes making statements threatening that exact type of attack on the United States tends to show that Abu Ghaith knowingly participated in al Qaeda's conspiracy to kill Americans," Kaplan said.
Kaplan also said defense lawyers can obtain a videotaped deposition from Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a man in Yemen who is believed to have been bin Laden's driver from 1998 until November 2001.
He said Hamdan, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, can participate in a videotaped deposition at the request of defense lawyers who said Hamdan refuses to travel to the United States and most likely would not be permitted in the country anyway.
Defense lawyers have said Hamdan would testify he never saw Abu Ghaith with an al-Qaida card that contains coded names and locations of some individuals. They've said he also would testify that the cards contained the names of auto mechanics and others of no particular importance or consequence, including visitors passing through the Kandahar, Afghanistan community.
The judge said defense and government lawyers can each question Hamdan for three hours, though he limited topics to the cards, the purpose of al-Qaida training camps that Abu Ghaith visited and opinions regarding Abu Ghaith's role in al-Qaida.