WORCESTER, Massachusetts — A US physics graduate accused of planning to bomb the US Capitol and the Pentagon with explosives-packed model planes pleaded not guilty to all charges Monday.
Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, is also accused of planning to attack the sites in Washington with automatic weapons and grenades.
He faces a maximum prison sentence of 85 years — enough to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life — if convicted on all counts.
The federal judge in Worcester, near Boston, agreed to postpone a bail hearing until October 20 to give his defense lawyer, Catherine Byrne, more time to prepare.
As Ferdaus entered court, a group of about 20 family members yelled: “We’re all here for you!” They then shouted, “We love you!” as he was taken out of the courtroom to his detention cell.
The lightly bearded Ferdaus remained calm during his arraignment hearing, his constant blinking the only sign of possible nervousness. However, his relatives were emotional and his mother sobbed loudly.
The graduate of Northeastern University is the latest in a string of US citizens caught through FBI sting operations in which undercover agents aid would-be plotters to prepare attacks — and then have them arrested.
Officials describe the tactic as part of a complex fight against homegrown terrorism threats, complete with wiretaps, infiltration and tip-offs from within the Muslim community.
However, some lawyers and rights activists criticize what they say amounts to entrapment, with agents sometimes going to great lengths to facilitate the development of plots, including supplying what suspects are led to believe is everything from Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to explosives.
In Ferdaus’ case, prosecutors say he is an al-Qaeda supporter who concocted a highly imaginative plan for mayhem and bloodshed in Washington.
He was arrested Wednesday and accused of having “long planned to commit violent acts against our country, including attacks on the Pentagon and our nation’s Capitol,” US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in Boston.
The plan, according to the criminal complaint, was to strike the Pentagon and the Capitol’s famous white dome with bombs delivered by large, remote-controlled model planes.
Ferdaus was said to have claimed he would “decapitate the entire empire. (It will be the) final nail in the coffin.”
In addition, he allegedly planned for a six-person team to shoot down people as they fled the bombs. The plan was to “open up on them” and “keep firing,” he allegedly said.
“It ought to result in the downfall of this entire disgusting place.”
Ferdaus was arrested in Framingham, near Boston, immediately after putting the newly delivered explosives and automatic weapons in a storage container, the FBI said.
However, “the public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by undercover FBI employees,” the FBI said.