A look at how the legal process may play out in the case against Ahmed Abu Khattala. His initial court appearance at the federal courthouse in the nation’s capital took place Saturday:
Q: What happened at that hearing?
A: Abu Khattala pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola. Wearing a two-piece black track suit and keeping his hands behind his back, the defendant wore headphones to listen to a translation of the proceedings. Abu Khattala spoke just two words during the hearing, both in Arabic. He replied “yes” when asked to swear to tell the truth, and “no” when asked if he was having trouble understanding the proceeding. Facciola ordered his continued detention.
Q: Who is representing Abu Khattala?
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A: A court-appointed lawyer from the federal public defender’s office, Michele Peterson, appeared with Abu Khattala.
Q: What’s next?
A: Minutes after Abu Khattala entered his plea, the Justice Department unsealed a two-page grand-jury indictment charging him with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists resulting in death. Attorney General Eric Holder has said Abu Khattala could face additional charges and federal authorities are working to identify, locate and prosecute additional co-conspirators. The case is in the hands of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Q: What has been the reaction to the criminal proceedings?
A: The Obama administration supports prosecuting Abu Khattala and other suspected terrorists in U.S. courts, a judicial system that government officials believe is fairer and more efficient than the military-tribunal process at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Some Republican critics are raising concerns about the prosecution. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said “critical intelligence” could be lost in the process of turning Abu Khattala over to the American justice system.