Houston: A 20-year-old Saudi student,
accused of buying chemicals and equipment to build weapons of mass destruction to target nuclear power plants and the home
of former President George W Bush, has pleaded not guilty.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who faces life in prison and a
USD 250,000 fine if convicted, appeared at his arraignment
yesterday in US Federal Court in Lubbock, Texas before Federal
Magistrate Judge Nancy Koenig.
Wearing a navy blue prison jump suit, his hands and
legs were shackled.
Magistrate Koenig also set a trial date of May 2 for
him. A gag order exists in the case, so Aldawsari`s defence
attorney Rod Hobson, could not comment about yesterday`s
Earlier this year at Aldawsari`s initial court
appearance, Hobson issued a written statement saying that his
client should be "presumed innocent."
US District Judge Sam Cummings, the trial judge, early
this month issued an order prohibiting Aldawsari`s attorney or
prosecutors from speaking about the case.
Court documents allege he hatched plans to attack
various US targets, including in New York City and at former
President Bush`s Dallas home.
Hobson, the student`s attorney, stood with his client
and whispered to him after Koenig asked Aldawsari whether he
wanted to waive the reading of his indictment.
"Waive," Aldawsari told Koenig. Aldawsari, who was
legally in the US on a student visa, was arrested February 23.
The White House said President Barack Obama had been
notified about the plot.
Court records indicate authorities traced Aldawsari`s
online purchases, discovered extremist online posts he made
and secretly searched his apartment, computer and email
accounts, and read his diary.
The terrorism case detailed in court documents was
significant because it suggests that radicalized foreigners can live quietly in the US without raising suspicions from neighbors, classmates, teachers or others.
It also showed how quickly US law enforcement can move when tipped that a terrorist plot may be unfolding.
Federal authorities said a chemical company, Carolina
Biological Supply of Burlington, NC, reported USD 435 in
suspicious orders by Aldawsari to the FBI on February 1.
Separately, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based shipping company
Con-way Freight notified Lubbock police and the FBI the same
day with similar suspicions because it appeared the order wasn`t intended for commercial use.
Prosecutors said that in December, he bought 30 liters
of concentrated nitric acid from QualiChem Technologies in
Georgia, and three gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid that
are combined to make TNP.
The FBI later found the chemicals in Aldawsari`s
apartment as well as beakers, flasks, wiring, a Hazmat suit
Aldawsari wrote that he was planning an attack in the
United States for years, even before coming to the US on a
scholarship. He said he was influenced by Osama bin Laden`s
speeches and that he bemoaned the plight of Muslims.