A Libyan who was held and interrogated for a week aboard a U.S. warship was arraigned Tuesday on conspiracy charges for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.
Abu Anas al-Libi has been under federal indictment in New York for more than a decade and was recently brought to the U.S. after special operations forces snatched him during a raid in Libya on Oct. 5.
Al-Libi, 49, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Through an Arabic language interpreter, he said he does not speak English and could not afford an attorney. The judge explained a new attorney would be assigned.
The judge declared him to be a flight risk and ordered him held Tuesday.
Al-Libi would be the latest in a string of defendants to face civilian trials under President Barack Obama. Early in his term, he faced criticism for planning to prosecute admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York.
Since then, however, the city has hosted the trial of Ahmed Ghailani, who received a life sentence on a terrorism charge in 2011.
Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey believes al-Libi should have been brought to Guantanamo Bay, and that the U.S. was risking a chance to extract valuable information from the terror suspect by bringing him to court so soon.
"The alternative is to reinstitute the CIA interrogation program, turn him over to them and wait until we've gotten all the information we need, and then try him wherever you want to try him," he said. "He's been out 15 years at his own choice. For 15 years, a delay of a couple of months in his trial isn't going to make a difference."
But Karen Greenberg, an expert on terrorism at Fordham University, says the handling of al-Libi is appropriate.
The alleged terrorists "believe in what they did. They often tell us what they have done. If he's here, they have what information they need or he may continue to talk to them," she said.
Al-Libi's full name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai.