FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Two Pakistani-born brothers pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of plotting to obtain a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to support terrorism with money, communications equipment and other means.
The pleas were entered at a brief federal court hearing by lawyers for 30-year-old Sheheryar Alam Qazi and 20-year-old Raees Alam Qazi, both of Oakland Park. The Qazi brothers, who were arrested last week, wore tan prison jumpsuits and shackles in court and did not speak during the hearing. No family members were present.
A bail hearing was set for Dec. 14 for Raees Qazi during which prosecutors are likely to reveal some details of the case. Sheheryar Qazi's attorney, Ronald Chapman, said his client will not seek bail for now.
Few details have emerged about the alleged plot, although law enforcement officials have said the charges were not the result of an FBI sting operation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert declined comment, as did Chapman and Raees Qazi's lawyer Daniel Ecarius.
Prosecutors have filed court documents indicating they have evidence obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which typically includes intercepted phone calls, emails and other communications between the defendants and other conspirators overseas. The exact nature of the evidence in this case is still under wraps and authorities have not disclosed whether the men were connected to any foreign terror group, such as al-Qaida.
A brief grand jury indictment charges that the Qazis provided money, property, lodging, communications and other support for a conspiracy aimed at obtaining an explosive weapon of mass destruction to be used within the U.S. It's not yet clear how far along the plot was or what potential targets might have been, but authorities said the plot that began in July 2011 has been disrupted.
Both men face the same two charges: conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence, and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, which has a potential life sentence. Family members of the two men have said they were not involved in terrorism and are innocent. Both are naturalized U.S. citizens.
Additional arrests are possible.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt