Saudi accused in bomb plot pleads not guilty

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 28, 2011 12:43 PM

By Elliott Blackburn

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - A 20-year-old Saudi student indicted in a bomb plot with targets including the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Khalid Aldawsari faces a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. If convicted, the former chemical engineering exchange student could face up to life in prison.

He gave calm, short answers during an arraignment hearing that lasted less than five minutes. His longest response to questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koenig was to say "not guilty."

Koenig set a trial date of May 2. Aldawsari and attorneys in the case were under a gag order and made no comment.

Aldawsari's arms and legs were bound during his court appearance. Wearing his black hair combed back, he sat quietly, without looking at the handful of journalists and court staff in the room, until he was summoned by the judge.

Federal investigators accused Aldawsari of investigating power plants, nightclubs and Bush's home as possible targets and purchasing chemicals to build a bomb in his second-floor apartment across from the Texas Tech University campus.

Tips from a North Carolina chemical company and a Lubbock freight company alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to court documents. He was arrested February 28.

Aldawsari was in the United States on a student visa studying chemical engineering and business in Lubbock, according to court documents. He was described by former roommates as polite but intensely private.

Emails and journal entries attributed to him and released by investigators in court documents describe religious war and tell of founding his own chapter of al Qaeda.

Aldawsari remained in the Lubbock County Jail on Monday, where he is kept separated from the rest of the prison population.

He has access to recreation, letters, the library and visitors, but not television, because of his location in the jail, Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe said.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)