NEW YORK, N.Y. - An alleged al-Qaida member accused in a pair of 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in east Africa maintains his innocence and was shaken by the experience of being snatched off the streets of Libya and interrogated for a week aboard an American warship, his new lawyer said Tuesday.
Abu Anas al-Libi "is upset because he was seized in front of his home at gunpoint and blindfolded, and not knowing why," the attorney, Bernard Kleinman said following a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.
Al-Libi, also known as Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was indicted more than a decade ago in the twin 1998 bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans. He was brought to the United States last week and pleaded not guilty while being represented by two federal defenders.
Kleinman — whose clients have included Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and another man detained at Guantanamo — said he had been retained privately to represent al-Libi. The 49-year-old defendant confirmed in court through an Arabic interpreter that he wants Kleinman as his lawyer.
Kleinman declined to discuss how he was being paid following the hearing.
The government told U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan on Tuesday that they want to put the Libyan defendant on trial with two other men charged in the embassy bombing case, Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary. Prosecutors also said the evidence includes 270,000 pages of documents and a voluntary, incriminating statement by the defendant.
Kaplan put off a decision on a possible joint trial, but indicated it could push such a proceeding into late next year.
The prosecution in the United States is in keeping with a disputed policy of bringing suspected al-Qaida sympathizers and operatives to civilian courts rather than military tribunals. Several Republicans in Congress had demanded that al-Libi be sent to Guantanamo for indefinite interrogation.
The civilian court prosecutions have continued before and after the Obama administration was forced to reverse its plans to prosecute Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in Manhattan.
Before the Sept. 11 attacks, several other major terrorism trials were held in New York, including those of Yousef and blind Egyptian sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.
Lawyers have said al-Libi is suffering from hepatitis C and other ailments.