COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio man pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court to charges that he joined Al Qaeda and conspired to bomb European tourist resorts and U.S. military bases overseas.
Christopher Paul, 43, a U.S. citizen and Columbus resident, opted not to fight for his release on bond, giving up his right to a hearing when prosecutors had planned to ask that he not be allowed out of the jail.
Paul learned hand-to-hand combat and how to use grenades and assault rifles at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, according to a federal grand jury indictment announced Thursday. He then joined the terrorist group in Pakistan and told Al Qaeda members he was dedicated to committing violent jihad, prosecutors allege.
When U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost asked for his plea, Paul said "not guilty."
"And that is to all three counts, correct?" Frost said. "Yes, sir," Paul replied.
Paul, arrested Wednesday outside his apartment, is charged with providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries the most serious penalty of up to life in prison.
Prosecutors and Paul's defense attorney declined comment after the hearing.