Bin Laden son-in-law trial may be delayed by cuts

 

The impact of $85bn (£55bn) of spending cuts, which began hitting the American economy at the beginning of March, was felt inside a New York courtroom this week, when it emerged that the trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law could be delayed because of the fiscal impasse in Washington.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former preacher and husband of Bin Laden’s daughter Fatima, pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to kill Americans last month, just days after President Barack Obama – having failed to strike a deal with Congressional Republicans – signed a law authorising the spending cuts.

Mr Abu Ghaith is accused of being a spokesman for al-Qa’ida. Although he is not alleged to have had an operational role in the terror group’s plots, he has been portrayed as a key propagandist.

But now the proceedings against him are facing a delay after his court-appointed lawyers said it would be very hard for them to be ready for a proposed trial date of September. The reason? The five-and-a-half weeks of unpaid leave imposed on the lawyers as a result of the spending cuts. Known as “sequestration”, the cuts require public lawyers to take the time off by October.

According to Martin Cohen, one of the accused’s lawyers, a September trial would thus present a problem for the Federal Defenders of New York, the non-profit organisation representing Mr Abu Ghaith. It receives federal funding and has to implement the leave of absence.

At a hearing on Monday, Mr Cohen suggested a January trial date instead. US district judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the case, said it was “stunning” that spending cuts could cause a delay in a trial of such importance.

Mr Abu Ghaith was arrested in Turkey in late February before being transferred to the US.

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