Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges in his first appearance in a federal court room Saturday. Khatallah was charged with providing material support to terrorists in the September 2012 attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Khatallah sported a long, dark gray beard and wore a dark hooded sweatshirt for the appearance, according to CBS News. He had not cuffs or chains and spoke only a few words when asked questions by the magistrate judge.
Khatallah is a suspected leader of the attack in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. He is the first person connected to the attack to be arrested and charged under federal law. The suspect was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Additional charges will likely be brought against him at a later date.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement about the Benghazi suspect, saying, “Now that Ahmed Abu Khatallah has arrived in the United States, he will face the full weight of our justice system. We will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant’s alleged role in the attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi.”
Khatallah was captured by U.S. Special Forces in a secret raid outside the Libyan city earlier in June. He was then taken to the U.S.S. New York, a Navy ship stationed in the Mediterranean, and escorted to Washington, D.C., to face trial.
ABC News notes that a criminal complaint filed against the Benghazi suspect earlier this year was unsealed after his arrest. The complaint accuses Khatallah of “killing a person in the course of an action on a federal facility,” providing and conspiring to provide “material support to terrorists resulting in death,” and using a firearm in relation to a violent crime.”
After the militant’s capture, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral Jack Kirby told reporters that the Libyan government was notified of the operation. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department added that it was a “unilateral U.S. operation.”
U.S. officials told CBS News that Khatallah was read his Miranda rights while aboard the U.S. Navy ship en-route to the United States. The officials explained that the suspect was talkative and cooperating before and after he was read his rights. Officials didn’t say what the Benghazi suspect was questioned about, or what intelligence they received from him while aboard the ship.