BALI, INDONESIA — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday defended the capture of a terrorism suspect by American forces in Libya, saying complaints about the operation from Libya and others are unfounded.
Kerry said the weekend seizure in Tripoli of the suspected al-Qaida operative Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai complied with U.S. law. He said the suspect was a “legal and appropriate target” for the U.S. military and will face justice in a court of law. Kerry added it was important not to “sympathize” with wanted terrorists.
“I hope the perception is in the world that people who commit acts of terror and who have been appropriately indicted by courts of law, by the legal process, will know that United States of America is going to do anything in its power that is legal and appropriate in order to enforce the law and to protect our security,” Kerry told reporters after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific economic conference.
“I think it’s important for people in the world not to sympathize with alleged terrorists but to underscore the importance of the rule of law,” he added, when asked about the Libyan government’s complaint that the seizure amounted to kidnapping. Libya has asked Washington to explain and clarify its actions.
Al-Ruqai, known by his alias Abu Anas al-Libi, was seized on the streets of the Libyan capital on Saturday. He is accused by the U.S. of involvement in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed more than 220 people. He has been on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list since it was introduced shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack, with a $5 million bounty on his head.
Kerry, a former prosecutor, noted that al-Libi has been indicted by a U.S. court and will have a chance to defend himself.
“An indictment is an accusation,” Kerry said. “In our legal system the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but he will now have an opportunity to defend himself and to be appropriately brought to justice in a court of law.”