WASHINGTON, DC – Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a suspect in the September 2012 attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, made his first appearance in a federal courtroom in Washington D.C. on Saturday, where he was charged with providing material support to terrorists. He pleaded not guilty.
Khatallah, with a long, dark gray beard and clad in a dark hooded sweatshirt, entered the Washington courtroom with no cuffs or chains. He had a solemn demeanor and spoke only a few words when asked questions by the magistrate judge.
The judge advised him of the charge against him and of his constitutional rights, and Khatallah then entered his not guilty plea. A detention hearing is scheduled for July 2 and a status hearing for Tuesday, July 8th.
A suspected leader of the attack in Benghazi that claimed four American lives, including then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, Khatallah is the first person connected to the attack to be brought into custody and charged under federal law.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury on a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. The Department of Justice will likely bring additional charges at a later date.
"Now that Ahmed Abu Khatallah has arrived in the United States, he will face the full weight of our justice system," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. "We will prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant's alleged role in the attack that killed four brave Americans in Benghazi."
"Capturing Ahmed Abu Khatallah and bringing him to the U.S. to face justice for his role in killing American citizens in Benghazi is a major step forward in our ongoing investigation," added FBI Director James B. Comey. "Our work, however, is not over. This case remains one of our top priorities and we will continue to pursue all others who participated in this brazen attack on our citizens and our country."
After Khatallah was captured by U.S. Special Forces in a secret raid outside Benghazi earlier in June, he was put on the U.S.S. New York, a Navy ship stationed in the Mediterranean, and sent to Washington to stand trial.
US officials tell CBS News Khatallah was read his Miranda rights several days ago, while aboard the ship en-route to the United States. According to the officials, Khatallah had been talkative and cooperating with US interrogators before being read his rights. One official said that the "conversation continued" after Khatallah was Mirandized.
Officials would not characterize what Khatallah was questioned about, or what intelligence was gleaned, but the fact that the ship sailed for almost two weeks with Khatallah talking should indicate that he remained cooperative.
Under legal guidelines, a "clean team" of investigators would have re-started the questioning after Khatallah was read his rights so the information they obtained would be admissible in court.
When Khatallah arrived in D.C. on Saturday via helicopter, a public information officer with the U.S. Attorney's office there announced he was in law enforcement custody, promising more information to come.