NEW YORK, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Two men of the U.S. state of New Jersey who were arrested late Saturday as they allegedly tried to fly to Somalia to join a terrorist group made their first appearance in a federal court in New Jersey on Monday.
The two defendants were led into court in shackles. Mohamed Mahmood Alessa, 20, had what appeared to be bruises on his left temple and the left side of his forehead. There was no immediate explanation for how he got them.
At one point Alessa answered a question from Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo about whether he wanted court-appointed counsel by saying, "Excuse me?" As he was being led out, he recognized someone in the courtroom, smiled broadly, pointed and waved as best he could with the shackles, according to The New York Times.
Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 24, spent most of his time in court frowning.
A magistrate appointed lawyers to represent them and scheduled two additional court appearances: a bail hearing on Thursday, and a preliminary hearing on June 21 about the charges they face.
Both of them still remain in custody.
Alessa and Almonte were arrested late Saturday at New York Kennedy International Airport as they prepared to fly to Egypt to join Al Shabab, a group that claims ideological kinship with al- Qaida and was thought to have provided a haven to Qaida operatives wanted for bombings of United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, prosecutors in court were cited as saying.
Prosecutor Judson Welle was cited as saying that the two men are charged with conspiracy to murder, kidnap or maim persons outside the United States, adding each could face a maximum sentence of life in prison and penalties of 250,000 dollars.
The two defendants have been under scrutiny by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation since 2006, after the agency received a tip on its Web site. Beginning last year, an undercover officer from the New York Police Department (NYPD) recorded many meetings and conversations with them, during which they discussed their plans, a criminal complaint says.
Foxnews cited NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly as saying Sunday that the two young men had traveled to Jordan in 2007. From there, they tried to get into Iraq but were turned back.