During what was supposed to be a procedural court hearing, Al Qaeda suspect Ali Charaf Damache asked the judge for a new lawyer or the right to represent himself in court.
Damache, in Philadelphia Federal Court on Wednesday and speaking in heavily accented English, claimed he has "irreconcilable differences" with his court-appointed attorney, Joe Mancano.
Damache, addressing Judge Petrese Tucker directly, said “due to gravity of this case I will need another solicitor.”
“[Mancano] promised me a lot in this case and he didn’t keep his promises. He promised me a short…if I cooperate with the government,” he said. “I did, but he never came back to see me, never told me what my relationship with the government is.”
He said now he no longer trusts his attorney. He asked the court to either appoint a new attorney or allow him to pick a new one from a list provided by the Irish Embassy in Spain.
The judge said she would not appoint another attorney. But she said she would consider allowing Damache to represent himself and set a court date for Jan. 16 for when she would have a ruling on the request. In the meantime, the judge said Mancano would remain as backup counsel.
Mancano said he was surprised by his client’s request to replace him.
He told reporters outside the courtroom that Damache has “the right to represent himself.” He said his client is likely overwhelmed by the whole process and isn’t familiar with the American judicial system.
Damache’s trial is expected to begin next year, on Oct. 15. He faces charges for aiding terrorism, including a plan to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who depicted the prophet Muhammad as a dog. Damache was allegedly part of an Ireland-based cell that included Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman known as 'Jihad Jane' currently serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy and terrorism-related crimes.