New York – Suspected al Qaeda figure Abu Anas al-Liby told a U.S. judge on Wednesday that statements he made to U.S. interrogators should not be allowed at trial because he felt he had no choice but to talk.
The 50-year-old Libyan, who faces charges stemming from the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, testified at a hearing in New York to determine whether the statements he made aboard a U.S. Air Force plane can be used against him in court.
The interview, conducted last October by an FBI agent and an investigator from the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, followed days of military interrogation aboard a Navy ship in the Persian Gulf after al-Liby was snatched by U.S. forces off the streets of Tripoli.
His comments from the interview have not been made public.
Once he was transferred to FBI custody, al-Liby was entitled to certain rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
Al-Liby claimed on Wednesday he asked for an attorney while aboard the plane but was ignored. He said he expected to be transferred to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, not to a civilian court in Manhattan.
He also testified that he believed he was required to sign a form waiving his rights, based in part on his experience with harsh Libyan interrogators. At the time, he added, he was in the midst of a days-long hunger strike.
“Why did you sign that form?” his lawyer, Bernard Kleinman, asked.
“The way the same method all the investigators use, you have no choice but to sign it,” al-Liby replied through an Arabic translator.
The investigator from the U.S. Attorney’s office, George Corey, testified that he made al-Liby aware of his rights and that al-Liby signed the waiver voluntarily. Prosecutors displayed the form, which was initialled and signed by al-Liby.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fee pointed out that al-Liby had never previously claimed he asked for an attorney prior to arriving in New York.
Corey said he explicitly told al-Liby he was headed to criminal court in New York, not to a military court. He also said al-Liby, who suffers from liver disease, was given frequent breaks for medical attention and rest and that the conversation was civil, polite and “low-key.”
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan did not indicate when he would rule. Al-Liby, whose birth name is Nazih al-Ragye, is scheduled to go on trial next month.