By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three men accused of plotting to fire-bomb high-profile targets during the NATO summit in Chicago this spring pleaded not guilty on Monday to terrorism charges.
Brent Betterly, 24, Jared Chase, 27, and Brian Church, 20, are accused in an 11-count indictment of a variety of terrorism-related offenses, including conspiracy to commit terrorism, conspiracy to commit arson and possession of explosives.
Prosecutors say the men were caught building Molotov cocktails -- crude gasoline bombs -- they planned to use against a number of buildings in the city, including President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters, during the summit in May of the NATO military alliance.
The two-day event drew thousands of anti-war demonstrators to Chicago.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thaddeus Wilson on Monday set a preliminary trial date in the case for July 22, 2013. But defense attorneys made it clear they hope to bring their clients, who remain in jail on $1.5 million bond, to trial sooner.
The three are being prosecuted under an untested Illinois anti-terrorism law adopted after the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks.
Two other men, Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, and Mark Neiweem, 28, who were arrested on terrorism or explosive charges ahead of the NATO summit, were also scheduled to appear in court on Monday to be formally charged.
Neiweem's arraignment was postponed until July 23.
Senakiewicz's attorneys have asked the court to assign a new judge to hear their client's case. A decision on the request is expected on Tuesday.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Andrew Hay)