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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Faisal Shahzad appears in court

NEW YORK, May 19 : Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad appeared in court for the first time Tuesday, more than two weeks after he was pulled off a flight headed to Dubai and taken into custody.

Shahzad, wearing gray prison garb and sporting a black beard, spoke only once during a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes. The 30-year-old resident of Shelton , Conn. , said "yes" to confirm that he lacked the financial means to pay for his own lawyer. He showed no emotion as the judge advised him of his rights. He was not handcuffed during the hearing.

Shahzad was taken into custody on May 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport , two days after he allegedly tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square . Since his arrest, he has been providing information to federal authorities.

Last week, authorities executed search warrants in Massachusetts , New Jersey and on New York 's Long Island as they tracked Mr. Shahzad's funding. Two men were taken into custody in Massachusetts and a third was arrested in Maine on suspicion of immigration violations.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV asked if Mr. Shahzad had waived his right to a speedy court appearance. U.S. prosecutor Randall Jackson responded that he had previously done so.

The courtroom, which was cleared for a brief security sweep prior to the hearing on late Tuesday afternoon, was packed. Shahzad was ringed by federal agents, didn't look at the crowd gathered behind him in the small room and only nodded as his lawyer spoke on his behalf to the judge.

Shahzad faces five charges: use of weapons of mass destruction; acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries; use of a destructive device in connection with a crime of violence; transporting and receiving explosives; and damaging and destroying property by means of fire and explosives.

He could face life in prison on the two terrorism charges. A preliminary hearing was set for Mr. Shahzad on June 1.

The judge granted prosecutors' request to keep Shahzad in custody. Julia Gatto, his lawyer, asked that Mr. Shahzad receive Halal meals while in detention. The judge agreed. When the hearing ended, Mr. Shahzad was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom by U.S. marshals. It's unclear where he will be held. Ms. Gatto declined to comment after the hearing.

A U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan , Mr. Shahzad has told authorities that he received bomb-making training in Pakistan . U.S. authorities have said he admitted to constructing a crude explosive device, which included fireworks and propane gas canisters, and left it in a Nissan Pathfinder in Times Square on the night of May 1. The device was discovered after a street vendor saw the unattended vehicle smoking in the vicinity of 45th Street and Seventh Avenue .

Over the last two weeks, the naturalized Pakistani immigrant charged with driving a crude car bomb into Times Square settled into something of a strange daily routine: He signed a piece of paper waiving his right to a lawyer and a speedy court appearance. Then he continued to talk to federal authorities, providing what they have called valuable intelligence.

As Mr. Shahzad was led into the courtroom, the buzz of conversation among reporters, lawyers and spectators suddenly ceased. The room became so still that the scratch of courtroom artists could be heard.

Prosecutors said he had admitted receiving bomb-making training in the Pakistani region of Waziristan and driving a Nissan Pathfinder packed with propane, gasoline, fireworks and fertilizer into Times Square at about 6:30 p.m. on May 1, when the bustling crossroads was packed with a Saturday-night throng of tourists.

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