White House defends civil trial for Al-Qaeda suspect

The White House on Friday defended its decision to try Osama bin Laden's captured son-in-law in a civilian court, after several top Republicans said he should have been sent to Guantanamo Bay.

White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said there was "broad consensus" in justice, intelligence and national security agencies in the US government that the best way to deal with Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was in a New York courtroom.

Earlier, in Manhattan, Abu Ghaith, who was brought to the United States by the FBI, was remanded in custody until April 8 when a date for his trial on terrorism charges will likely be set.

Earnest said the administration had considered the fact that previous trials of terror suspects that had taken place in federal courts had been successful, mentioning the conviction of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, however, complained that the decision made little sense and showed a "stubborn refusal" by President Barack Obama to transfer terror suspects to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"At Guantanamo, he could be held as a detainee and fulsomely and continuously interrogated without having to overcome the objections of his civilian lawyers," McConnell said.

"Abu Ghaith has sworn to kill Americans, and he likely possesses information that could prevent harm to America and its allies. He is an enemy combatant and should be held in military custody."

Earnest said that McConnell's assessment differed from those of the departments of Justice, Defense and the US national security establishment.

Obama vowed to close Guantanamo Bay, in one of his first acts after taking office in 2009, but has been unable to do so, partly due to action by lawmakers designed to frustrate his designs.

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