Defense lawyers for Suleiman Abu Ghayth are trying to get into Guantanamo Bay to interview Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed ahead of Ghayth’s trial later this month.
Southern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ferrara told Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan at a conference Tuesday that the government has consented to allow Ghayth’s legal team to interview Mohammed, but with conditions.
Ghayth counsel Stanley Cohen told the court one of the conditions is that attorneys for the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense be present during the interview, which could be a “deal breaker” for Mohammed, who placed his own conditions on consenting to an interview.
Ghayth, the late Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, is accused of being part of the al Qaida conspiracy to kill Americans, including appearing with bin Laden and the group’s top deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, after the Sept. 11 hijackings to speak on behalf of the organization and warn that similar attacks were on the way.
Following the conference, Cohen said he is worried that the presence of government lawyers in the room at Guantanamo would compromise defense strategy. He also said interviewing Mohammed is important, as “I would not be seeking to get access to this witness if I didn’t think he would be a very helpful witness and provide exculpatory” testimony on behalf of Ghayth.
The attorneys are expected to report back to Kaplan on Thursday on whether or not there is an agreement on the interview. Jury selection is presently scheduled for Feb. 24.