ELIZABETH - The American Civil Liberties Union is representing a man accused of setting off bombs in New York and New Jersey.
A lawyer for the organization's New Jersey chapter entered a notice of appearance Monday in Ahmad Khan Rahami's case in federal court in Newark.
ACLU attorney Alexander Shalom says Rahami's father and wife requested the ACLU represent him until he is appointed a federal public defender or another lawyer. Shalom says the ACLU took up the case because there was concern that Rahami was being denied the right to counsel.
“The right of accused people to have lawyers to protect their rights is, literally, fundamental to our Constitution,” Shalom says. “It goes back all the way to the 18th century to the founding of this nation.”
Shalom says the ACLU will represent Rahami for the federal charges he’s facing in New Jersey and New York.
Rahami is accused of planting bombs in Seaside Park, Elizabeth and Manhattan. No one was hurt in the blast in Seaside Park, but 31 people were injured in New York. A backpack full of bombs was found near the Elizabeth train station but did not go off.
“Lawyers stand between the government and their clients. It's a principle that we think is important, that our Constitution thinks is important,” Shalom says. “It's important, not just in the easy cases. It's important also…in the difficult cases.”
Two homeless men found the backpack of bombs in Elizabeth and alerted police. They were honored by Elizabeth officials Tuesday evening.
Rahami has been hospitalized since he was caught following a shootout with police in Linden last week. Prosecutors said he had been incapacitated and intubated since undergoing surgery for his wounds.
A federal judge last week denied a public defender's request to be appointed.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.