The sister of a man accused in a suspected plot in 2009 to attack New York's subways with suicide bombs tearfully testified Wednesday of an FBI raid on their home in the dead of night during Ramadan.
Her mother also said on the stand that FBI agents showed up at her work, telling her that her son Adis Medunjanin, a Bosnian-born U.S. citizen, should tell them what he knows.
The defense called both women to the stand in the trial of the former cab driver, whose lawyer argues federal agents unfairly coerced him into making incriminating statements after they intimidated his family.
Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, providing material support to a terrorist organization and other charges.
Prosecutors say he traveled to Pakistan in 2008 with Najubullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay to join the Taliban but instead were recruited by al-Qaida operatives for a suicide mission in the U.S. Both Zazi and Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty.
Authorities allege the three were involved in one of the most frightening near-miss terror plots since the 9/11 attack — to strap on suicide bomb vests and detonate them inside New York subways.
Alisa Medunjanin, a slight, round-eyed, 30-year-old nurse, testified Wednesday she thought her brother's overseas trip was to get married. She said she had no idea what the agents were doing at her door in September 2009.
Defense attorney Stephanie Carvlin played surveillance footage of the family's lobby where more than a dozen agents with heavy weaponry cram into an elevator on their way to the apartment. Alisa Medunjanin, her brother and their parents were asleep until the bell rang.
"They told us to get on the ground, put up our hands," she said, crying. "They cuffed us."
She and her mother, who barely speaks English, were taken to the lobby and her father and brother were questioned by authorities.
While his mother was on the stand, speaking through a Bosnian interpreter, Adis Medunjanin teared up, wiped at his eyes and his lips quivered. Favila Medunjanin testified that they came to the U.S. in 1994 as refugees and eventually found work. She said FBI agents showed up at her work, speaking to her in her native language, telling her that her son should tell them what he knows.
Alisa Medunjanin testified that the family decided to hire a lawyer after her brother was questioned again and was gone an entire day. She said agents came to her once, too. "They told me, 'Oh, you should tell your brother to tell us what he knows. He is in a lot of trouble,'" she said.
She said she was also present on Jan. 7, 2010, when her brother was handed a search warrant by two agents and she was worried about him, but he told her to go back to sleep. A few hours later, her mother woke her.
"I looked in the room and he wasn't there and I thought 'Oh, my God. They must've taken him,'" she said, sobbing.
Adis Medunjanin had left the home and gotten into a car accident. Prosecutors say he did it on purpose as one final attempt to cause havoc before he was taken into custody. They played a 911 call shortly after he crashed the sedan, where Medunjanin identifies himself and then is hollering, almost unintelligibly, in another language.
The trial has included testimony from Zazi and other terror suspects.