Al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11 attacks has taken the witness stand on his own behalf at his New York trial on charges that he conspired to kill Americans and aid al-Qaida.

A defense attorney made the surprise announcement Wednesday that his client, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith (SOO'-lay-mahn AH'-boo GAYTH'), would testify.

The announcement came as a shock in the nearly empty Manhattan courtroom, which quickly filled with spectators as word spread.

Abu Ghaith says that after he went to Afghanistan for the first time, Osama bin Laden summoned him to meet because bin Laden had heard that Abu Ghaith was a preacher from Kuwait.

Abu Ghaith says he knew bin Laden was suspected in terrorist attacks but still "wanted to get to know that person."