NEW YORK (Reuters) - Suspected Al Qaeda figure Anas al-Liby has elected to stick with his defense lawyer, despite a judge’s warnings that the lawyer has a potential conflict of interest because the Libyan government is paying his fees.
Al-Liby, whose real name is Nazih al-Ragye, told U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York on Wednesday that he understood his lawyer Bernard Kleinman theoretically could find his loyalties divided between his client and the Libyan government.
Kaplan said he would permit Kleinman to remain on the case if al-Liby agreed to waive any future appeal centered on whether Kleinman’s representation was tainted by the potential conflict.
“Yes, if that’s what the U.S. law says,” al-Liby replied through an Arabic translator.
Al-Liby was seized in October by U.S. forces in Libya and brought to the United States shortly thereafter to face criminal charges in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200. The Libyan government criticized the operation as an unauthorized incursion.
On Wednesday, Kaplan pointed to news reports that Libyan officials may have secretly authorized his capture and suggested it was possible the same people were involved in paying Kleinman. He also referred to a $5 million reward the United States offered for al-Liby’s capture and conviction.
But al-Liby said he was aware of the risks. Kleinman has previously said he has received no instructions from Libyan officials regarding his defense strategy.
Al-Liby, whose family says he suffers from the liver disease hepatitis C, appeared gaunt and at one point required medical attention for pain in his arm, putting the hearing on hold.
He is scheduled for trial in November alongside Egpytian Adel Bary and Saudi Khalid al-Fawwaz.
Kaplan on Wednesday also denied a motion from al-Fawwaz and Bary to separate their trial from al-Liby’s.
Lawyers for the two men, both of whom have been in U.K. or U.S. custody since the 1990s, had argued the government might seek to introduce evidence concerning al-Liby’s conduct in the years since the bombings, including during the period after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
That evidence could prejudice a U.S. jury against Bary and al-Fawwaz, even though they were imprisoned at the time, the lawyers claimed.
Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Gunna Dickson