NEW YORK (AP) — Osama bin Laden's son-in-law offered a rare glimpse of the al-Qaida leader in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, recounting during surprise testimony Wednesday in a Manhattan courtroom how the two met that night in a cave in Afghanistan.
"Did you learn about what happened ... the attacks on the United States?" the son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, recalled bin Laden asking him.
"We are the ones who did it."
The testimony came as Abu Ghaith's trial on charges he conspired to kill Americans and aid al-Qaida as a spokesman for the terrorist group took a dramatic turn. His decision to take the witness stand was announced by his lawyer, Stanley Cohen, who surprised a nearly empty courtroom that quickly filled with spectators as word spread.
Abu Ghaith testified that bin Laden seemed worried that night and asked what he thought would happen next. Abu Ghaith said he predicted America "will not settle until it accomplishes two things: to kill you and topple the state of the Taliban."
Bin Laden responded: "'You're being too pessimistic,'" Abu Ghaith recalled.
Bin Laden then offered the onetime imam a job that would gain him infamy as well as a place in the inner circle of the world's most wanted terrorist. "I want to deliver a message to the world," Abu Ghaith said bin Laden told him. "... I want you to deliver that message."
The testimony was a rare gambit by the defense, a last-ditch effort to counter a mountain of evidence against Abu Ghaith, including an alleged confession and videos showing him sitting beside Bin Laden on Sept. 12, 2001, and another in which he warned Americans that "the storm of airplanes will not abate." The defense has never disputed that Abu Ghaith associated with bin Laden after 9/11, but it contends he was recruited as a religious teacher and orator, and had no role in plotting more attacks.