By Arun Kumar
New York, May 19 (IANS) Two weeks after his arrest, Pakistani American Faisal Shahzad, who planned to detonate a car bomb at the landmark Times Square, was arraigned before a federal magistrate in Manhattan on five felony counts.
Appearing before Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV Tuesday evening, Shahzad, 30, did not enter a plea, simply answering "yes" when the judge asked whether an affidavit attesting to his finances was accurate.
He was then charged with one count each of attempting terrorism by attempting to kill people; attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction; using a destructive device in connection with an attempted crime of violence; transporting explosives; and attempting to destroy property with fire and explosives. Attempted terrorism carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The judge asked an assistant United States attorney, Randall Jackson, whether the government wished Shahzad to be held. "The government seeks detention," Jackson said. Shahzad's court appointed lawyer, Julia Gatto, sitting at his side, consented.
The judge set a June 1 date for Shahzad's next hearing, and the defendant was handcuffed and led from the courtroom. The whole proceeding took less than 10 minutes.
Shahzad, a Pakistani immigrant who lived in Connecticut and had worked as a financial analyst, was taken into custody May 3 as he tried to flee to his native Pakistan on a flight out of Kennedy International JFK Airport minutes before the plane was to leave for Dubai.
Prosecutors said he had left a Nissan Pathfinder rigged with makeshift, defective explosives in Times Square on May 1. The suspect who has been kept in an undisclosed location since he was taken into custody immediately began cooperating with federal investigators.
"Shahzad ... has provided valuable intelligence from which further investigative action has been taken," said US Attorney Preet Bharara before the hearing.
Three other Pakistanis were taken into custody in New England after a series of raids last week, and three others were arrested in Pakistan. None face criminal charges in connection with the plot.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's homeland security counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Tuesday a newly formed high-value detainee interrogation group, known as the HIG, was used to question Shahzad, as well as other suspects in the US and abroad, over the last few months.
Senior administration officials cited in media reports said the elite team of investigators - from the FBI, CIA and Defence Department - is designed to question terror suspects just after arrest, to head off future terror attacks.