NY terror suspect granted hearing over statements
NEW YORK (AP) — A judge, over government objections, on Wednesday granted a Libyan man facing terrorism charges a hearing to prove his claims that his statements to the FBI were coerced.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan scheduled a hearing for Oct. 15 several hours after listening to oral arguments from lawyers in the case.
Abu Anas al-Libi has asked the judge to suppress statements he made on his plane ride to America a week after he was snatched off the streets of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in October 2013. He said the statements were coerced because he felt as though he had to answer questions from the FBI after he was abused physically and psychologically by people he thought were CIA agents on the U.S.S. San Antonio in the Mediterranean for a week.
Al-Libi has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998. The attacks killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans. Trial is scheduled to start Nov. 3 for al-Libi and another defendant, though defense lawyers have asked that it be delayed.
In a written declaration submitted to the court in September, al-Libi said he was told on the ship that his interrogation would last 15 to 16 weeks.
“I was certain that, if lucky, I would end up at Guantanamo Bay, but more likely at a CIA torture prison,” he wrote.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the judge said al-Libi’s and his lawyer’s claims seemed “at least slightly hyperbolic” and contained a “lot of rhetoric and exaggeration.” He noted that there were no claims that al-Libi was put in stressful positions or was forced to stand for 24 hours, only that he was not given a bed and was forced to rest on a blanket on the floor when he was not being questioned.
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” the judge told defense attorney Bernard Kleinman, “he does not claim anyone laid a hand on him from the time he got on the San Antonio until you appeared in this courtroom.”
The lawyer said the judge was right but al-Libi was in great fear because his interrogators on the ship told him he would face increasingly more difficult treatment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Lewin argued that what happened to al-Libi on the ship did not matter as long as he was properly instructed about his rights by the FBI once he was taken into custody. He said a hearing was unnecessary.
The judge said he was obliged to look at all the circumstances but limited testimony at next week’s hearing to what happened once al-Libi was in FBI custody.