NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Pakistani man accused of taking part in an international al Qaeda plot to attack targets in the United States and Europe pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges during his first U.S. court appearance Monday in New York.
Abid Naseer, 26, was extradited on Thursday from Britain to Brooklyn, New York. He is facing up to life in prison on charges including providing material support to al Qaeda and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with an alleged plot to bomb a city center in Manchester, England.
The charges against Naseer are also connected to an alleged al Qaeda plot in 2009 to bomb the subway system in New York City, U.S. prosecutors said. Two men, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, have pleaded guilty to planning the attacks and a third man, Adis Medunjanin, was sentenced to life in prison after his conviction last year for taking part in the plot.
During a brief court appearance in Brooklyn federal court, Naseer, wearing a bright blue t-shirt and black sneakers, pleaded not guilty to the charges through his court-appointed lawyer. The judge ordered Naseer to be held in detention without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 7.
Naseer is one of a dozen men, mostly students from Pakistan, who were arrested in Britain in 2009 on suspicion of plotting to bomb a city center in Manchester. British authorities conducted daylight raids on the suspects’ homes after Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism official was photographed openly carrying details about the operation.
British authorities said they found large quantities of flour and oil in the suspects’ homes, as well as highlighted surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester and a map of the city center.
Naseer and the other suspects were never charged, but British and U.S. authorities said Naseer was part of a broader al Qaeda cell bent on staging attacks in the United States and Scandinavia.
Naseer was indicted in Brooklyn federal court in 2010, along with Medunjanin and other individuals alleged to be linked through a multi-national al Qaeda conspiracy. U.S. prosecutors said Naseer and Zazi coordinated their plans through emails to the same Pakistan-based al Qaeda facilitator, “Ahmad,” using similar code words to discuss explosives and the timing of their respective plots.
Naseer was re-arrested by British authorities in 2010 after a U.S. warrant was issued. He fought extradition, saying he feared he could be sent from the U.S. to Pakistan and subjected there to torture. Naseer’s appeal was rejected last month by the European Court of Human Rights, paving the way for him to stand trial in the United States.
Reporting by Jessica Dye; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid