An Algerian caught with explosives at Port Angeles has pleaded innocent in Seattle to plotting to blow up buildings.
Ahmed Ressam entered the plea through his lawyer in federal court under heavy security.
Ressam's attorney then asked the judge to move the trial to San Francisco or Los Angeles. He was told to submit a summary of the news coverage in those cities at a hearing next Wednesday. Meanwhile, the trial date was postponed to July 10. Ressam waived his right to a speedy trial.
A grand jury filed a terrorism conspiracy indictment against two Algerians last week, alleging for the first time that explosives smuggled into Washington state were going to be used to blow up buildings or other U.S. targets.
The nine-count indictment, which supersedes previous charges, accuses Ressam and Abdelmajid Dahoumane of conspiring since 1998 "to destroy or damage structures, conveyances or other real or personal property within the United States."
It does not disclose specific targets or how investigators had discovered the plot stretched back at least a year. It does not allege any property was actually damaged.
Ressam, 32, was arrested Dec. 14 at Port Angeles, Wash. The trunk of his rental car contained a substance used to make the military-grade C-4 explosive and a "nitroglycerine equivalent" in two glass jars. He was detained as he left a ferry from Victoria, British Columbia.
Dahoumane remains at large, accused of being an accomplice to Ressam.
The two men had shared a $36 per night Vancouver, British Columbia, motel room in the 25 days before Ressam's arrest, during which time they either made or had in their possession the explosives, according to a Canadian arrest warrant for Dahoumane.
At least four other Algerian nationals and one woman married to an Algerian are being investigated in the explosives plot. One man was to meet Ressam in Seattle, drive him where he needed to go and give him money, Canadian police said Thursday.
That man, Abdel Ghani Meskini, 31, pleaded innocent Thursday in New York City to charges of providing and concealing support for Ressam.
Meskini was ordered to go to Seattle by Montreal shopkeeper Mokhtar Haouri, another Algerian national, a Canadian police investigator alleged at a Montreal bail hearing for Haouri on Thursday.
Meskini returned to New York after Ressam was arrested Dec. 14, Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigator Serge Haineault testified.
Haouari and Meskini were indicted earlier this month by a U.S. federal grand jury in Manhattan for violations of the federal law against providing support to terrorists.
They are accused of conspiring to transfer fake or stolen U.S. immigration identity cards and passports of other countries, including Canada and France, as well as using fake credit, bank and charge cards over the last year to buy $1,000 or more worth of merchandise. Their indictment dinot say what they are accused of buying.
Meskini divulged under American police questioning that Haouri is a member of the Islamic Salvation Front, the Algerian political party that was poised to win elections before the army intervened in 1992, the RCMP investigator testified.
Haouri also is a member of the party's armed faction, the GIA, which has been fighting a guerrilla war against the army and is accused of committing atrocities against civilians, Haineault said.
Ressam has been linked by investigators to the GIA, which has targeted foreigners in Algeria and France. Counterterrorism experts have suggested that Ressam, who reportedly was trained in terrorist tactics in Afghanistan, may be linked to suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile believed to be in Afghanistan.
Timing devices found in Ressam's rented Chrysler are identical to ones used by bin Laden's forces in previous attacks, former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro has said.
A Canadian woman married to an Algerian, Lucia Garofalo, was arrested Dec. 19 as she tried to cross into the United States at Beecher Falls, Vt. She later was linked to Ressam and Meskini through telephone records. She faces seven charges ranging from illegally transporting an alien into the United States to possessing a false passport.
Another Algerian man, Bouabide Chamchi, was arrested with Garofalo. He faces four counts, including possession of a false passport and making false statements to U.S. Customs. Both Garofalo and Chamchi have pleaded innocent.
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CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff