NEW YORK—A star government informant at the trial of former al-Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith Tuesday said he never heard of the defendant, but riveted jurors with macabre tales of the terror group poisoning small animals and giggling over the Twin Towers’ fall.
Saajib Badat, 34, who pulled out of al-Qaida’s 2001 plot to explode shoe bombs on planes, said that during 21/2 years in Afghanistan, he took a poisons course, in which teachers tested potions on dogs and rabbits and watched them “cry out and scream.”
“It was an experiment,” Badat said. “The instructor would shout out ‘This is Clinton,’ ‘This is Bush.’ . . . We were doing this to be mujahedeen, so we were looking at the goal behind it, which is what desensitizes scientists to what is being done.”
Abu Ghaith, 48, a fiery Kuwaiti religious scholar who married Osama bin Laden’s daughter, is accused of conspiring to kill Americans and give material support to al-Qaida after Sept. 11 by using his rhetorical skill to recruit fighters in speeches and videos. Prosecutors say Abu Ghaith was not part of Sept. 11, but knew of later plots. Although the two never met, Badat was called to prove the shoe-bomb plot was planned in the weeks after Sept. 11, just as Abu Ghaith threatened a “storm of airplanes” in public statements.
While Badat’s role in the shoe-bomb plot was not in doubt, he provided new details of the plan and his own journey into and out of terrorism during his two days of direct and cross-examination on a video hookup from Britain.
Badat said when he was approached with fellow Brit Richard Reid in the days after Sept. 11 about the shoe bombing, he felt “envy” for the hijackers who had attacked the United States, and his first reaction was, “Now it’s my time.”
The plot almost flopped, Badat testified, when a U.S. missile killed the al-Qaida leader storing the shoe bombs. They were found intact in a safe, he said. He eventually gave one exploding shoe to a Malaysian group with a pilot working on a plane plot. He said at a meeting with Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan to work on details of the shoe-bomb plot and other plans, KSM showed an almanac with a list of the world’s tallest buildings.
“He had gotten a pen out and crossed out World Trade Center 1 and 2,” Badat testified. “I am ashamed to say he did this as a joke and we laughed.”
Badat said he flew home to Britain from Pakistan wearing his remaining shoe bomb on one foot. Once he got home—away, he said, from a place where everyone was gung-ho for terrorism—his mom and dad got on his case. “My father said, ‘You better not be one of those sleepers,’” he testified.
Reid was stopped trying to detonate his bomb on a transatlantic flight on Dec. 22, 2001, and is serving a life sentence in the United States. Badat was arrested in 2003 and served 6 years.
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