In a courtroom sketch Faisal Shahzad (r) sits with assistant public defender Julia Gatto, during his arraignment in federal court in New York, 18 May 2010

In a courtroom sketch Faisal Shahzad (r) sits with assistant public defender Julia Gatto, during his arraignment in federal court in New York, 18 May 2010

By Carolyn Weaver | New York – Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year-old Pakistani-American accused of rigging a failed car bomb in Times Square, New York city on May 1 was arraigned in federal court in Manhattan on five felony counts late Tuesday afternoon.  The hearing followed 15 days of detention when Shahzad was reportedly cooperating with investigators, and had waived his right to appear promptly before a judge.

Faisal Shahzad, dressed in a gray sweatshirt and pants, did not enter a plea and spoke only one word during the ten-minute hearing before Federal Magistrate Judge James Francis at the courthouse in downtown Manhattan. He answered “Yes,” when asked about the accuracy of his statement of financial insufficiency.

The judge then appointed an assistant federal defender, Julia Gatto, to act as Shahzad’s attorney at no cost.  Gatto did not contest prosecutors’ request for continued detention of her client, but asked the judge to instruct prison officials to serve him halal meals.

Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen, is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and four other felony charges relating to the failed car bombing.

Since his arrest May 3, authorities had said that Shahzad had waived his right to a speedy appearance before a judge, and was cooperating in their investigation. But New York defense attorney Ronald Kuby, who is not representing Shahzad, said his continued detention prior to a court appearance was “unprecedented” and violates American law.

Kuby said that he sent a letter of protest earlier Tuesday to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Loretta Preska:

“Essentially, calling upon her to exercise her constitutional function and to compel the government to produce Mr. Shahzad in open court for arraignment, as they’re required to do under Rule 5 of the federal rules of criminal procedure,” said Ronald Kuby. “The rule is very clear: It says that without unnecessary delay, the defendant must be produced in open court. In this case, the government chose not to produce him in open court. Instead, they chose to interrogate him in some Manhattan version of Guantanamo and disregarded this very fundamental right.”

Kuby said that while a suspect may choose to cooperate with investigators in the hope that he will receive more lenient treatment, the government’s claim that Shahzad had waived his rights was not enough – prior to a court appearance.

The judge set a June 1 date for the next hearing in the case. Shahzad was then led in handcuffs from the courtroom. He faces life in prison if convicted. He is the only person charged in the Times Square bombing attempt, although three others were arrested in the northeastern U.S. last week, and several others have been arrested in Pakistan.

The U.S. authorities said they all have some connection with the case.

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