An alleged al-Qaeda member accused in a pair of 1998 US 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 a US warship, his new lawyer said on Tuesday.
Abu Anas al-Libi “is upset because he was seized in front of his home at gunpoint and blindfolded, and not knowing why,” his attorney, Bernard Kleinman, said following a hearing in a US 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 US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans. He was brought to the US 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 said 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 US District Judge Lewis Kaplan on Tuesday that they want to put al-Libi on trial with two other men charged with the embassy bombings, 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 has put off a decision on a possible joint trial.
Al-Libi’s prosecution in the US is in keeping with a disputed policy of bringing suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers and operatives to civilian courts rather than military tribunals. Several Republicans in the US Congress had demanded that al-Libi be sent to Guantanamo for indefinite interrogation.
The civilian court prosecutions have continued before and after US President Barack Obama’s administration was forced to reverse its plans to prosecute the self-named mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a federal court.