Prosecutors allege Abu Ghaith began his rise through the ranks for al-Qaida by becoming a motivational speaker at safe houses and training camps for aspiring jihadists in the weeks and months before Sept. 11. Afterward, bin Laden instructed him to lead recruitment efforts by appearing in widely distributed videos.
"For more than a year after, the defendant used the murderous power of his words to try to strengthen al-Qaida," Lewin said.
He quoted the defendant several times, including one remark he said came weeks after the attack: "These young men who have destroyed the United States and launched the storm of airplanes against it have done a good deed. The storm of airplanes will not abate."
The government contends the statements are evidence that Abu Ghaith had prior knowledge of the failed shoe-bomb airline attack by Richard Reid in December 2001 and another plot to down a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in shoes. Prosecutors are expected to introduce testimony via video feed of another former al-Qaida member in Great Britain who was in on the shoe-bomb plot.
Cohen told jurors that they might feel outrage over some of the "dumb" and "stupid" statements made by his client. But he urged jurors to keep open minds.
"At the end of the day, there's really no evidence," Cohen said. "There is the substitution for evidence with fright and alarm."
The first witness Wednesday was an FBI agent who traveled the world investigating al-Qaida before and after the Sept. 11 attacks. The trial is expected to last about a month.