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Shoe-bomb suspect pleads not guilty to all 9 charges

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BOSTON — The man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with bombs in his shoes pleaded not guilty Friday to terrorism-related charges in federal court.

Richard C. Reid, a 28-year-old British citizen, answered "not guilty" to eight charges, including the attempted murder of 197 passengers and crew members aboard American Airlines Flight 63 on Dec. 22. For technical reasons, the defense had the judge enter the not guilty plea on a ninth charge.

Reid, who appeared in U.S. District Court in heavy shackles, looked down during much of the brief hearing.

Reid was initially charged with interfering with a flight crew. The new terrorism charges, issued Wednesday, accuse him of having been trained in Afghanistan by the al-Qaida terrorist network and of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Reid was subdued by flight attendants and passengers on the Paris-to-Miami flight after he allegedly attempted to light a fuse protruding from his shoes.

"If it weren't for them this most definitely would have been a disaster," Charles Prouty, special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, said after the arraignment.

Authorities said each shoe contained a plastic explosive often used by terrorists. They said the homemade bombs could easily have ripped a hole in the plane if Reid had successfully ignited them.

Reid's case is being prosecuted in Boston because the plane was diverted to the city's Logan International Airport. He could get five life sentences if convicted.

Among the charges is attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle, a new charge created by Congress in an anti-terrorism bill enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Reid's attorney, Tamar Birckhead, asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein to enter an innocent plea on Reid's behalf to that charge because there was a "potential defect" in it. She questioned whether the American flight would qualify for the charge.

"To allege that a 767 airplane is a vehicle, let alone is a vehicle used in urban mass transportation, is a stretch," Birckhead said.

U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan dismissed her argument.

"I think it's clear that Congress's intent was not to allow this kind of conduct on a train but then to allow it on a plane," he said.

Reid has been held without bail since his arrest Dec. 22.

The indictment said Reid "received training from al-Qaida in Afghanistan" but provided no other details about alleged ties to the network.

Birckhead has said the indictment does not indicate that Reid worked on behalf of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida group or any other terrorist network. Sullivan refused to elaborate on any evidence of Reid's alleged connection to terrorism.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said in Washington on Wednesday that the charges "alert us to a clear, unmistakable threat that al-Qaida could attack the United States again."

A U.S. official said Reid may be an al-Qaida target scout, and an Israeli official said it was possible Reid was gathering intelligence for large-scale terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and other cities. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.

Reid converted to Islam while in prison for petty crimes. He later worshipped at the same London mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been charged with conspiracy in the Sept. 11 attacks.

In an interview with Britain's Channel 4 News on Thursday, Reid's father, Robin Reid of London, said he could not believe his son is an international terrorist.

"He'd been brainwashed," he said. "I think I know my son well enough to know that he wouldn't have, he couldn't have, thought of doing this on his own."