NY bomb suspect pleads not guilty from hospital bed

Suspected bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi appears on a screen via a Skype video connection from University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, during hearing before Superior Court Judge Regina C. Caulfield at the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA, on Oct 13, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

UNITED STATES (AFP) - The New York bomb suspect wanted for injuring 31 people in a September attack in Manhattan pleaded not guilty on Thursday (Oct 13) to state charges from his hospital bed.

Ahmad Khan Rahimi's public defender entered a plea of not guilty on state charges that his client attempted to murder police officers and unlawfully possessed weapons while on the run in New Jersey.

Bail was set at US$5.2 million (S$7.2 million). Rahimi was shown lying in his hospital bed, where he is being treated after being critically wounded in a shootout with police on Sept 19 that led to his capture.

"Yes ma'am," said the Afghan-born American weakly in response to questions from Judge Regina Caulfield, who spoke from the court, as he recovered in his home town of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Looking pale, with a thick black beard and black hair, he had a hospital sheet pulled up almost to his neck.

His public lawyer, Peter Liguori, stood over him wearing a hospital gown over his shirt and tie, and blue rubber gloves on his hands.

Liguori told the court he wished to correct the spelling of his 28-year-old client's last name to Rahimi - not Rahami as previously listed by US authorities.

In addition to the New Jersey charges, Rahimi has been indicted for terrorism, including use of weapons of mass destruction, by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. He has yet to appear on those charges.

The bomb attack in New York's upscale neighborhood of Chelsea wounded 31 people on Sept 17.

A separate bomb attack forced the cancellation of a US Marine Corps run in the New Jersey town of Seaside Park.

If convicted, the suspect, who worked in his family's fried chicken restaurant, could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Rahimi was captured while carrying a handwritten journal that lauded Osama bin Laden and US-born Al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, and criticised US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, prosecutors said.

The FBI believes that he acted alone.

Another bomb found in Chelsea on Sept 17 was defused safely. Five additional pipe bombs were subsequently found and defused in Elizabeth.

US officials say the suspect travelled extensively to Afghanistan and spent around a year in Pakistan, where he married and his wife became pregnant.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.