N.Y. airport plot suspects extradited, plead innocent

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three men accused of plotting to blow up New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport pleaded not guilty on Wednesday after they were extradited to the United States from Trinidad.

Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahim, 62, and Guyanese citizens Abdul Kadir, 59, and Abdel Nur, 57, were flown by private jet overnight to Miami International Airport en route to JFK, the same airport they are accused of plotting to bomb.

At a hearing in Brooklyn federal court, the three men pleaded innocent to involvement in a plot to blow up buildings, fuel tanks and pipelines at the top international air passenger gateway to the United States. All three were held in custody and did not apply for bail.

A fourth suspect, Russell de Freitas, was arrested in New York and is in jail pending trial. A naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana who once worked as a cargo handler at the airport, he has also pleaded not guilty.

The four men were indicted in New York a year ago on charges of plotting to blow up JFK, which handles 1,000 flights and more than 120,000 passengers daily. They face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors say the four suspects are Islamic extremists. The charges include conspiring to attack a mass transportation facility, to destroy a public building by explosion and to destroy international airport facilities.

U.S. authorities acknowledged previously that the plot -- conceived between January and June 2007 -- was more aspirational than operational.

After the hearing, Kadir’s lawyer, Kafahni Nkrumah, said that Kadir, a former member of Guyana’s parliament, “had no involvement in any plot to blow up JFK.” Court papers alleged Kadir used his training as a civil engineer to work out the technical details of the plot.

Michael Hueston, a lawyer for Ibrahim, a former clerical worker who appeared frail in court with stitches from what his lawyer said was a fall in Trinidad, said no explosives or devices were part of the evidence and the case was “grossly exaggerated.”

According to authorities and court papers, various meetings were held by De Freitas and the suspects in Trinidad, along with an FBI source, who recorded conversations about plans to contact Jamaat al Muslimeen, a Muslim group behind a 1990 coup attempt in Trinidad.

The three men were extradited overnight from Trinidad amid great secrecy and security in an operation that involved 15 FBI agents in addition to local law enforcement officers, the Trinidad Guardian newspaper said.

The three men fought extradition but lost an appeal earlier this week. The next court hearing was scheduled for August 7.

Editing by Daniel Trotta and Peter Cooney