Sulaiman Abu Ghayth took the witness stand this morning trying to beat back charges he recruited fighters for al Qaida leading up to and immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The testimony followed the case put on by the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s office that offered evidence that Abu Ghayth served as a propagandist for the terror group and vowed a “storm of airplanes” would continue after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The call to the stand was a high-risk move by a defense team led by Stanley Cohen, who has lost a series of motions and evidentiary rulings before Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan, including his request that 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, be allowed to testify from Guantanamo Bay.

Cohen started by tracing his client’s movements from Kuwait to Afghanistan in June 2001, some three months before the Sept. 11 attacks, and his meeting with Osama bin Laden, who asked Abu Ghayth, as an imam, to give religious lectures at training camps in Afghanistan

Abu Ghayth said bin Laden told him that the camps in Afghanistan involved “weapons training, roughness and a hard life, but I need you to change that” and prepare the trainees to be “merciful.”

Abu Ghayth said he was invited to meet bin Laden and met him knowing that he was a “suspect in certain acts.”

“Do you recall what those acts were?” Cohen asked.

“Yes, from what I heard…the attacks on the two embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the attacks on the USS Cole,” he said.

Cohen asked him why he agreed to meet bin Laden.

“I wanted to get to know that person,” he said. “I wanted to see what he had, what it is he wanted.”