NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer for a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden said on Monday that he may try to move his client’s trial out of New York, saying he was concerned about having the proceedings in the city that saw the greatest destruction from the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Suleiman Abu Ghaith’s attorneys said at a federal court hearing in Manhattan that they are considering a request for change of venue.
Martin Cohen, one of the defense attorneys, said after the hearing that the concern stems from the potential “prejudicial nature” of having a trial in New York. He declined to say where the defense might seek to move the case.
Abu Ghaith, who acted as an al Qaeda spokesman in videos, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to kill Americans. He is one of the highest-ranking al Qaeda figures to face trial in the United States for crimes related to the September 11 attacks.
The bearded, balding Abu Ghaith did not speak at Monday’s hearing after being escorted into the courtroom in handcuffs. He listened to a translation of the proceedings through headphones.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the case, did not set a trial date. He said a trial could start this September or next January.
Cohen said a September start would overburden the Federal Defenders of New York, a nonprofit group providing Abu Ghaith’s defense. Each lawyer at the organization, which receives federal funding, has to take off 5-1/2 weeks from work by October because of sequestration cuts, he told Kaplan.
Kaplan said it was “extremely troublesome to contemplate a case of this nature to be delayed because of sequestration.”
Abu Ghaith was captured in Jordan on February 28 and brought secretly to the United States by the FBI on March 1.
The case is Unites States of America v. Hage et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 98-01023
Reporting by Bernard Vaughan; Editing by Martha Graybow and Prudence Crowther