Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Al Libi to appear in New York court


  • Abu Anas al Libi was a member of al Qaeda, U.S. officials say

  • Authorities say he played role in bombings at American embassies in 1998

  • He is scheduled to appear before a federal official in NYC on Tuesday

(CNN) — His family is shocked that he’s been brought to the United States to stand trial. A New York lawmaker is also questioning the move, but for different reasons.

Abu Anas al Libi, an alleged al Qaeda operative, is expected to appear in federal court in New York on Tuesday, the first of many legal steps as the U.S. tries to make him answer for the crimes he’s accused of committing.

Al Libi was snatched in broad daylight on October 5 from outside his house in Tripoli, Libya, by U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers. The 49-year-old Libya native is accused of playing a role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

The U.S. had been holding him aboard a Navy ship, U.S. officials said. He was questioned there by members of a high-value detainee interrogation team before he was brought to U.S. soil over the weekend, the officials said.

His arrival reopens the debate of the prudence of prosecuting international terror suspects in U.S. courts.

Rep. Peter King, R-New York, said Monday that it was “unfortunate that al Libi is on American soil, ending the interrogation process.”

“It shows the inherent flaws in the U.S. policy decision to try (terror suspects) in the U.S. because once you arrive on U.S. soil, that ends the interrogation of these high value detainees,” King said. He added that wouldn’t have happened if al Libi had been sent to Guantanamo Bay and faced a military commission there.

U.S. or military court

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have previously said they prefer to try individuals such as al Libi in American courts.

In 2009, Holder said five detainees with alleged ties to the September 11, 2001, attacks would be transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York for trial in civilian court. Later Holder reversed course, announcing that accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others would be tried in a military commission at Guantanamo instead.

Al Libi was indicted in 2001 by the federal court in the Southern District of New York in the embassy bombings and in connection with his alleged roles in al Qaeda conspiracies to attack U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said last week that there was no chance that al Libi would end up at Guantanamo.

“The administration’s position on Guantanamo is clear. Our goal is not to add to the population, it’s to reduce it, which we’ve done. … Our policy is not to send any new detainees to Guantanamo,” she said.

Family wants a lawyer

The news of al Libi’s arrival in the U.S. shocked his family, they said. They had not received updates, from the U.S. or Libyan governments, after he was taken.

His son, Abdullah, said the family hoped to get him a lawyer that would “work with him, for him.” It was unclear if al Libi already has a lawyer.

“We don’t want him talking to just anyone,” Abdullah said. “We don’t want just any lawyer asking him questions.”

Some terrorism experts have questioned how much valuable intelligence al Libi would be able to provide for his captors. A former jihadist associate told CNN last week that it was unlikely that he was still playing an active role with the terrorist network.

His wife said he was no longer a member of al Qaeda, had been living a normal life and was seeking a job with the Libyan oil ministry.

Journalist Ayman al-Kekli in Tripoli and CNN’s Nic Robertson, Evan Perez and Susan Candiotti contributed to this story.

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Al Libi to appear in New York court

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