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Senator Menendez returns to New York court to enter plea to new conspiracy charge

NEW YORK (AP) – United States (US) Senator Bob Menendez returned to court yesterday to enter an expected not guilty plea to a conspiracy charge alleging he acted as an agent of the Egyptian government when he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez, 69, appeared in the afternoon before Judge Sidney H Stein at federal court in Manhattan.

The New Jersey Democrat stepped down from his powerful post leading the Senate committee after he was charged last month.

Prosecutors said the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car over the past five years from three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for a variety of corrupt acts.

The other defendants entered not guilty charges to a superseding indictment last week.

The senator was permitted to delay his arraignment so he could tend to Senate duties.

Senator Bob Menendez leaves federal court in New York, United States. PHOTO: AP

He has said that throughout his whole life he has been loyal to the US and that he will show his innocence.

Menendez has resisted calls from more than 30 Democrats that he resign.

The rewritten indictment added a charge alleging that the senator, his wife and one of the businessmen conspired to have Menendez act as an agent of the government of Egypt and Egyptian officials.

As a member of Congress, Menendez is prohibited from acting as an agent for a foreign government.

Menendez is accused of passing information to the Egyptians about the staff at the US embassy in Cairo, ghostwriting a letter on Egypt’s behalf intended to influence fellow senators and urging the US State Department to get more involved in international negotiations to block a dam project Egypt opposed, among other things.

Last week, Nadine Menendez and a businessman, Wael Hana, pleaded not guilty to the super-seding indictment.

Both of them were charged with conspiring with the senator to use him as an agent of the government of Egypt and its officials. The charge carries a potential penalty of up to five years in prison.