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Prosecutors: Suspects pledged oath to al Qaeda

Defense: Alleged ringleader had no passport, ties to Mideast


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Miami (Florida)
Osama Bin Laden

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Six men pleaded not guilty Friday to charges they plotted to blow up U.S. buildings after prosecutors fighting bail for the group played a video that they alleged show the men swearing allegiance to al Qaeda.

But an attorney for Narseal Batiste -- who prosecutors say is the group's ringleader -- told a federal magistrate his client does not speak Arabic, has no contacts in the Middle East and has no passport.

Prosecutors told the magistrate the video also shows Batiste expressing admiration for al Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden.

A seventh defendant, Lyglenson Lemorin, appeared in court Thursday in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was arrested last week.

A federal judge there denied Lemorin bond and ordered him transferred to Miami to stand trial with his co-defendants.

The magistrate in Miami made no decision on bail for the other six suspects because only Batiste's attorney had time to give a presentation. The hearing will continue Wednesday.

The six men face charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, including al Qaeda, and plotting to bomb buildings around the country as part of a "jihad" against the United States.

Prosecutors said the buildings the men plotted to blow up included the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois -- the nation's tallest building -- and FBI offices in Miami, New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles, California.

Prosecutors acknowledged, however, that it was an FBI informant who first brought up the bombing plans to the men.

Authorities have said the men did not have any explosives or weapons and that their plans appeared "more aspirational than operational."

In court Friday, prosecutors revealed items found during a raid last week of a warehouse used by the group as its headquarters in Liberty City, a low-income, predominantly black neighborhood in Miami.

While no firearms were found, investigators did discover a receipt for purchase of a gun, ammunition, marijuana, two credit cards, 10 euros, three machetes, two swords, an ax, uniforms and a flight suit.

A federal indictment says the men's planned attacks were intended to be "as good or greater than 9/11."

Throughout Friday's hearing in Miami, the men -- handcuffed and shackled to the floor -- held hands. One defendant flashed a peace sign with his fingers.

About 10 family members watched the hearing and exchanged smiles and glances with the defendants across the courtroom. Federal marshals warned them not to touch the defendants or move too close to them.

In Atlanta, Lemorin's public defender, Jimmy Hardy, accused prosecutors of overstating his client's role. He said Lemorin wanted no part of any terror plot and moved from Miami to Atlanta in April to get away "from the craziness."

The investigation into the men began after an Arabic speaker contacted authorities saying Batiste approached him about waging "jihad" against the United States.

Investigators planted an undercover informant in the group, according to authorities. The informant claimed to be an al Qaeda operative who helped plan the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, authorities have said.

In court Friday, prosecutors played segments of a videotaped conversation between the informant and Batiste, as well as the alleged March 16 allegiance ceremony.

On the videotape, Batiste could be heard saying he was "very grateful" to bin Laden and that he "loved" the al Qaeda leader's work. He also said he respected bin Laden and wanted to meet him some day.

CNN's John Zarrella and John Couwels contributed to this report.

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