Bin Laden son in law pleads not guilty to terror

Osama bin Laden's son in law and former spokesman pleaded not guilty Friday to terrorism charges in New York, where he was brought this month after a top secret US operation.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, reportedly a 47-year-old Kuwaiti and allegedly a leading propagandist in the Al-Qaeda network, stands accused of conspiring "to kill nationals of the United States."

Judge Lewis Kaplan, presiding over Manhattan's grandest ceremonial courtroom, ordered Abu Ghaith to remain in custody ahead of an April 8 hearing at which the trial date will be discussed.

Abu Ghaith, balding and with a short grey beard, wore a dark blue prison smock and was handcuffed in his first public appearance since being spirited to US soil.

Amid continuing lack of clarity about how he was arrested, one of his court-appointed defense lawyers said Abu Ghaith was detained "by United States law enforcement" overseas on February 28 and arrived in New York on March 1.

The arraignment took place a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, where the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001 by airliners hijacked by Al-Qaeda militants.

The proximity of Ground Zero to Abu Ghaith's upcoming trial was likely to raise political tensions.

In 2010, the government had to scrap a plan to put five Qaeda figures on trial for plotting the 9/11 attacks in the same courthouse. The plan set off bitter recriminations from some families of those killed on 9/11 in the World Trade Center and met with concerted opposition from New York officials, who described the prospect of the trials as a security nightmare.

Abu Ghaith is a far less senior figure in the Qaeda movement and it was not immediately clear whether a smattering of initial opposition to his presence in Manhattan would gain momentum.