The government has asked a Manhattan federal judge to block testimony from alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the terrorism trial of former al-Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith.
Mohammed, a detainee at the Guantánamo military prison, said in a 13-page response to defense questions that cleared security review over the weekend that Abu Ghaith didn't know about any al-Qaida plots and had "nothing to do with military operations."
Defense lawyer Stanley Cohen asked U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan to let Mohammed testify by closed-circuit feed or pretrial deposition because his testimony could clear Abu Ghaith, but prosecutors said the request came too late and wouldn't help the defense.
Prosecutors also pointed out that Mohammed, in his unsworn statement, said he didn't want to testify and would not consent to video or audio recorded testimony because he was suspicious of whether it would help his "friend" Abu Ghaith.
"Mohammed has flatly and definitively refused to testify," wrote prosecutor Nicholas Lewin. "Ordering a deposition of him is accordingly a waste of time."
Abu Ghaith, 48, a fiery Kuwaiti cleric who married Osama bin Laden's daughter and celebrated the Sept. 11 attacks with him on a notorious Sept. 12 al-Qaida video, is charged with conspiring to kill Americans and using his rhetorical skills as a recruiter.
His trial, in its third week, is nearing its end. Kaplan scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on Mohammed's possible testimony and other issues in the trial.
Mohammed's statement -- if the jury were to trust him -- does clear Abu Ghaith of charges that he knew in advance of a plot to blow up airliners with shoe bombs when he gave speeches threatening a continuing "storm of airplanes" after Sept. 11.
But other parts of his statement appeared to support government claims that his rhetorical work was a significant boost to al-Qaida, part of a charge that he provided material support to the group.
Al Qaida's "media strategy," Mohammed said, was part of a "long war of attrition to which the military and media alike contribute."
The jury is expected to continue hearing evidence in the case Wednesday.