Al-Libi Pleads Not Guilty to 1998 Embassy Plots
MANHATTAN (CN) - A reputed high-ranking member of al-Qaida pleaded not guilty Tuesday to playing a part in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa.
Anas al-Libi said he preferred to be addressed by the name Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai as stepped into a New York courtroom for the first time on Tuesday, more than a decade after a secret grand jury indicted him for his alleged role in the simultaneous bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Al Ruqai allegedly scouted the targets for al-Qaida by taking photographs and videotapes. He remained on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist list for years, until U.S. forces captured him in his homeland of Libya earlier this month.
U.S. interrogators held Al Ruqai on a Navy vessel before transferring him to United States soil on Monday. The circumstances surrounding Al Ruqai's seizure prompted controversy over U.S. rendition of suspected terrorists without formal extradition proceedings, and partisan wrangling by Republicans who wanted him to be tried by military commission.
On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. marshals ushered Al Ruqai with handcuffs behind his back into the court of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who has presided over the 1998 bombing cases in the Southern District of New York.
Clad in a black shirt and a loose-fitting grey pants, Al Ruqai's short-shaved black hair stood in marked contrast to his long and slightly hennaed beard. The 49-year-old had a paunchy stomach, and is reportedly ill with hepatitis C.
Two public defenders accompanied al Ruqai for the hearing, though they noted that they have not been formally appointed as counsel. Judge Kaplan granted their request for a medical examination of the suspect.
Chief public defender David Patton said that he read al Ruqai the three paragraphs of the more-than-150-page indictment that recites the allegations against him.
Al Ruqai pleaded not guilty to those charges, which carry a possible life sentence.
When Judge Kaplan asked whether this was a "death-eligible case," prosecutors said no.
The parties will meet again on Oct. 27 for a pretrial conference, where a lawyer will be appointed.