Why Federal District Court—Not Military Commission—Was Right Court to Try Bin Laden’s Son-in-Law

Cully Stimson
By Cully Stimson | September 24, 2014 | 9:53 AM EDT

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was sentenced to life in prison today in a New York federal district court.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who was convicted in his federal terrorism trial earlier this spring, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who described Ghaith at the sentencing proceeding today as bin Laden’s “propaganda minister” and, according to, the “face and voice of al Qaeda in the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks.”

Ghaith, who was captured in Jordan more than a year ago, then whisked to Manhattan to face American justice, was charged with conspiracy to kill Americans, providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Those who claim Ghaith should have been sent to Guantanamo Bay to face justice by a military commission do not recognize that those three charges are not available in a military commissions’ case. And although Ghaith could have been sent to Guantanamo Bay and held as an unprivileged enemy belligerent, that form of detention is temporary.

Sending Ghaith to federal district court to face justice was the right move, and his sentence fits his crimes.

As we continue to capture high-value terrorists, we must weigh the evidence and consider the rules of evidence and criminal procedure in both federal district courts and military commissions, before deciding how and where to handle each situation. Having all options on the table is the best option.

Charles "Cully" D. Stimson is a leading expert in criminal law, military law, military commissions and detention policy at The Heritage Foundation's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Heritage Foundation.

Sponsored Links