Terror conviction shows strength

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When Osama bin Laden's son-in-law was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists Wednesday, he joined a long list of terrorists brought to justice in civilian courts.

There were obvious security concerns with such a high-profile terrorism trial held practically within sight of Ground Zero in densely populated lower Manhattan. But like hundreds of terrorism prosecutions on U.S. soil since 9/11, the trial of Suleiman Abu Ghaith ended uneventfully, demonstrating that the federal courts are a safe and effective venue.

Abu Ghaith was a fiery al-Qaida spokesman irrevocably linked to bin Laden when the two appeared together in an infamous video on Sept. 12, 2001, making a case for jihad. Abu Ghaith insisted during his trial that he was a reluctant recruit with no choice but to comply when bin Laden summoned him to his mountain camp in Afghanistan on 9/11 and insisted he deliver al-Qaida's message to the world. But the Kuwaiti religious scholar regularly used his oratory to recruit terrorists and eventually married one of bin Laden's daughters.

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His trial was fraught with security concerns similar to those that thwarted Attorney General Eric Holder's 2009 plan to bring the architect of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid SheikhMohammed, from Guantanmo Bay to stand trial in Manhattan.

But nearly 500 people have been convicted of terrorism charges in civilian criminal courts since 9/11, according to Human Rights First, a nonprofit, nonpartisan international human rights organization. In fact, Abu Gaith was the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since those attacks. During that same time only a handful have been convicted in military commissions. Civilian courts are the right place to bring terrorists to justice.

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