NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday rejected a last-ditch request from one of Osama bin Laden’s sons-in-law to delay his trial after his lawyers said the government may have mixed him up with a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with a similar name.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said the trial of Suleiman Abu Ghaith will go forward on Monday. In addition, he denied the defense’s bid to compel the government to turn over additional details about the Guantanamo detainee, identified as Abdul Rahman Abdul Abu Ghityh Sulayman in defense court filings.
Kaplan also said that Abu Ghaith will not be able to introduce testimony from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center - at least for now.
Prosecutors have accused Abu Ghaith of acting as a spokesman for al Qaeda and recording videos soon after the September 11 attacks threatening further violence against Americans.
Defense lawyers have argued that the government cannot prove that Abu Ghaith was involved in, or even aware of, specific plans to attack the United States.
At a hearing on Friday, one of Abu Ghaith’s lawyers, Zoe Dolan, said the government appeared to have additional information about the detainee in Cuba and should be compelled to turn it over.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara told Kaplan that there was no chance of a case of mistaken identity.
“This person was not known as Suleiman Abu Ghaith in Afghanistan and is completely irrelevant to the charges here,” he said. “By no one’s account could this person be confused with the defendant.”
Kaplan said the trial would start on Monday and refused to order the government to turn over any other material.
Defense lawyers for Abu Ghaith said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had provided a 14-page declaration in response to written questions they had submitted.
According to an agreement signed by Abu Ghaith’s lawyers and the government, Mohammed’s answers were to be submitted for national security review to the Defense Department before any part of them could be given to the defense.
But Mohammed’s lawyer, David Nevin, has thus far refused to turn over the declaration until he gets assurances that other intelligence agencies will not have access to the answers, according to Stanley Cohen, one of Abu Ghaith’s lawyers.
It was unclear what Mohammed’s declaration says. Nevin did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Kaplan said he would be willing to consider future defense requests to admit testimony from Mohammed but that the trial would go forward in the meantime without it.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Dan Grebler