Queens Imam Pleads Not Guilty to Tipping Off Terror Suspect

Feds say Imam Ahmed Afzali alerted terror suspect to FBI probe

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Monday, Nov 2, 2009  |  Updated 3:17 PM EDT
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Queens Imam Pleads Not Guilty to Tipping Off Terror Suspect

AP

Ahmad Wais Afzali as seen in this 2001file photo. Azali, an imam of a mosque in Queens, was arrested over the weekend in connection with an ongoing terror investigation.

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A Queens imam accused of tipping off a terror suspect that the FBI was closing in on him pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn federal court Monday.

Imam Ahmad Afzali has denied knowingly compromising the investigation into terror suspect Najibullah Zazi.  Investigators said when NYPD detectives approached the imam for help in learning more about Zazi, the imam instead tipped off Zazi that investigators were looking for him. 

When asked after the hearing how he is feeling, Afzali said,"I feel good.  It's been difficult.  But thank god I have full faith in the system."

Afzali allegedly lied to the FBI when he was asked if he had spoken to Zazi.   The imam charged with lying to the FBI but is not accused of having any role in the alleged terror plot. 

Afzali's attorney Ron Kuby said the Imam is innocent and that investigators never gave his client a "road map" on how to help track or approach Zazi.

"The police did not tell him 'Oh by the way we are conducting the most sensitive terrorists investigation since 9-11 and whatever you do don't say anything,'" Kuby said.

Afzali remains free on bail pending his next hearing which is set for December 11.

Zazi is accused of traveling to overseas terror training camps to learn how to build bombs.  Once back in the U.S., the FBI says Zazi tried to buy chemicals in Denver and New York with the hopes of building explosives.  Zazi remains behind bars at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.  In court Monday, prosecutors said the investigation is ongoing.

Police had been looking into whether others in Queens were assisting Zazi but no one else had been charged in the alleged bomb plot.

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