Prosecutors Close to Deal With Queens Imam in Zazi Case - NBC New York

Prosecutors Close to Deal With Queens Imam in Zazi Case

Feds say Imam Ahmed Afzali alerted terror suspect to FBI probe



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    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.

    Prosecutors say they're close to reaching a plea deal with an imam accused of lying to FBI agents investigating a foiled suicide bomb plot against New York City.

    Ahmad Afzali made a brief appearance Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn. In their remarks to the judge, both prosecutors and Afzali's attorney indicated that a plea deal was likely. He's due back in court Thursday.

    Authorities arrested Afzali last year amid the investigation of admitted al-Qaida associate Najibullah Zazi. Zazi pleaded guilty last week to plotting to use homemade bombs for a "martyrdom operation" against the subways.

    Prosecutors say Afzali telephoned Zazi and alerted him that he was under surveillance when he arrived in New York in September to carry out the attack.

    Afzali previously denied knowingly compromising the investigation into Zazi. Investigators said when NYPD detectives approached the imam for help in learning more about Zazi, the imam tipped off Zazi that investigators were looking for him. 

    Afzali allegedly lied to the FBI when he was asked if he had spoken to Zazi. The imam is charged with lying to the FBI but is not accused of having any role in the alleged terror plot. His bond was set at $1.5 million after Zazi admitted in court last month he had engaged in a plot to bomb New York City subways. A friend of Zazi, New York cab driver Zarein Ahemdzay, was jailed without bail on a similar lying charge.

    Zazi, meanwhile, faces life in prison without parole in a plea deal.

    The 25-year-old former Denver airport shuttle driver and Afghan native pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support for a terrorist organization.

    When asked by the judge if he was trying to be a martyr, Zazi responded:  "Yes, your honor. I have a different explanation to that. To me, it meant that I would sacrifice myself to bring attention to what the United States military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan by sacrificing my soul for the sake of saving other souls."

    He admitted that his goal all along had been to detonate an explosive device on the the city's mass transit.

    Zazi was arrested in September after arousing authorities suspicions by driving cross-country from Denver to New York around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Authorities say he received al-Qaida training in Pakistan, bought beauty supplies in Colorado and tried to use them to cook up homemade bombs in a Colorado hotel room.

    He said he disposed of the chemicals in New York just before his arrest.

    Zazi's father was charged earlier this month with trying to get rid of chemicals and other evidence. But it appears he was cut a break: After initially demanding that he be jailed in Brooklyn without bail, prosecutors agreed to a deal on Feb. 17 releasing him on $50,000 bond and allowing him to return to his home in suburban Denver.