Routine justice: A prominent 9/11 case succeeds in civilian court

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The routine trial and conviction in a Manhattan courtroom of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law sends two messages to the nation 12 years after the 9/​11 attacks.

To those, namely congressional Republicans, who have demanded that suspected terrorists be tried in military instead of civilian courts, the fair prosecution and guilty verdict Wednesday in U.S. District Court demonstrated that justice in such cases can be dispensed by a jury of everyday Americans at a trial open to the public.

To President Barack Obama and his Democratic administration, which continues to maintain an offshore prison for terror suspects and combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the case proves that security and order can be maintained even when the defendant was a high-profile operative for al-Qaida’s late kingpin.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the husband of bin Laden’s daughter Fatima, is a Kuwaiti-born cleric who taped fiery speeches for al-Qaida extolling the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and pledged that more assaults on the United States would follow. He was found guilty of conspiring to kill Americans and giving material support to terrorists; he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Unlike many marquee criminal cases, Abu Ghaith’s moved quickly. He was captured in Jordan in 2013 and brought to the United States. Unlike the detainees at Guantanamo who have sat for years in prison cells awaiting their disposition, Abu Ghaith was put on trial within 12 months. The proceeding lasted three weeks, with the jury reaching a verdict on the second day of deliberations. No terrorist assault or security threat occurred.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. was correct to say afterward that the verdict was “a major milestone” in the government’s effort to prosecute those involved with 9/​11. The best way for Congress and the White House to mark the achievement is by similarly moving the Guantanamo detainees to trial and closing that prison as Mr. Obama promised.


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