A US District Judge on Wednesday said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile, JURIST news archive], who is being held at a detention facility at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] can answer written questions from the lawyers preparing to defend Sulaiman Abu Ghaith [JURIST news archive], Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, at his New York City terrorism trial in March. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan [official profile] gave his approval [AP report] in a written order for hundreds of written questions to be submitted to the self-proclaimed September 11 [JURIST news archive] mastermind. The interview, according to Abu Ghaith's attorney Stanley Cohen, will help the defense decide whether Mohammad would be an appropriate witness for the trial. In a later hearing, Kaplan expressed skepticism that the defense lawyers had fully explained why questioning Mohammed before the trial was necessary, despite their arguments that he was the most qualified person alive to tell them if Abu Ghaith knew of any al Qaeda terrorist operations.
Many cases involving al Qaeda operatives are making their way through the US judicial system. In April Judge Kaplan announced [JURIST report] that the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith would take place in January, citing the US budget sequester as the reason for delay. In March Abu Ghaith pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to conspiracy to kill US citizens. Last January the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the conspiracy conviction [JURIST report] of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman Al Bahlul, Osama bin Laden's media secretary. In 2012 Egyptian-born Muslim cleric Abu Hamza Al Masri pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to 11 criminal charges. His charges include taking hostages, providing material support to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, and conspiring to do such acts. He made his first appearance in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York after being extradited from the UK. Osama Bin Laden was killed [JURIST report] by US military personnel in 2011.