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Houston terror suspect wanted to blow up Galleria, old Sharpstown Mall, federal agent says

Omar Al Hardan pleads not guilty to all charges

HOUSTON

The Houston man arrested on terrorism charges pleaded not guilty to all counts against him after appearing in court Wednesday afternoon.

The defendant, prosecutors and defense attorneys were hastily called to court for a 1 p.m. detention hearing that ended up being rescheduled three hours later to 4 p.m. 

Bond was denied for Omar Al Hardan, who faces three charges stemming from allegations that he lied to investigators on a citizenship application to try to go to Syria to fight for ISIS.

Federal agent testified that Al Hardan plotted to blow up the Galleria Mall and the old Sharpstown Mall, now known as PlazAmericas.

Agents also claimed that Al Hardan trained with an AK-47 on a farm outside Houston, learning how to fire, manipulate gun and how to move to cover and hide.

They also said they have Al Hardan's conversations where he said, "I want to blow myself up," and "I am against America."

An exhibit list made public Wednesday shows investigators seized items from Al Hardan’s apartment, including electronic components, electronic books and cellphones.

Federal prosecutors also noted on the evidence list that they had a photograph of tactical training, something the government says Al Hardan had previously received but lied about when questioned by government agents.

The exhibit list also indicated prosecutors had a photographs of the defendant taking an oath, of a circuit board, of the defendant’s closet and a “photograph —Firearm to child’s head.”

It was not noted in court documents, reviewed by Channel 2 Investigates, where the photograph came from, who took it or whether it belonged to Al Hardan.

Prosecutors could use the exhibits in the detention hearing as they ask a judge to hold Al Hardan in jail without bond while he awaits trial.

Al Hardan’s defense attorney, David Adler, said Wednesday that he plans to argue against the government’s request but said he had little more to comment on. Alder said he was added to the case Friday.

Al Hardan arrived at the federal courthouse in downtown Houston wearing a dark-colored jumpsuit and had his hands shackled to a chain around his waist.

Al Hardan entered the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq in 2009. If convicted, he faces up to 50 years in prison.