NEW YORK -- Jurors in the trial of a former Al Qaeda spokesman charged with conspiring to kill Americans will not hear testimony from the alleged architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan issued his ruling as the trial of Sulaiman abu Ghaith, which began March 5, neared its end. Prosecutors rested their case Friday. The defense is expected to finish by the end of this week, and its case has been considerably shortened by the ruling excluding Mohammed’s testimony.
Prosecutors objected to Mohammed testifying for several reasons, including Mohammed’s own statement that he would not testify beyond written replies he submitted last week to defense questions.
Those replies covered 14 pages and were part of a motion filed late Sunday by defense attorney Stanley Cohen to permit Mohammed’s testimony.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Nicholas Lewin also said Mohammed, the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind, made clear in his written statement that he would not provide exculpatory evidence on Abu Ghaith’s behalf because the two did not know each other.
“It’s much ado about nothing,” he said of the motion to bring Mohammed into the trial.
“There is not even evidence ... that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was in the same country as the defendant during the relevant period,” Kaplan added.
Cohen has said that Mohammed’s portrayal of Abu Ghaith as a mere speech-giver, rather than a high-ranking Al Qaeda leader privy to terror plots, undermined the prosecution and that his testimony was critical.
After Kaplan’s ruling, Cohen filed court documents stating that Mohammed’s lawyer said his client had changed his mind about testifying and would appear via video to answer questions “on all relevant topics.”
It was not clear if the earlier ruling would be reconsidered.
Abu Ghaith, who is married to one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters, faces life in prison if convicted of conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda, and providing material support and resources to Al Qaeda. Testimony resumes Wednesday.