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Imam denies any role in alleged NYC terrorist bomb plot

Imam Ahmad Afzali, accused of lying to the FBI, arrived at Brooklyn federal court with his wife, Fatima, yesterday. Imam Ahmad Afzali, accused of lying to the FBI, arrived at Brooklyn federal court with his wife, Fatima, yesterday. (Louis Lanzano/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / November 3, 2009

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NEW YORK - An imam accused of lying to FBI agents investigating an alleged bomb plot against New York City by a suspected Al Qaeda associate pleaded not guilty yesterday.

“I have nothing to hide,’’ Ahmad Wais Afzali told reporters outside federal court in Brooklyn after his plea.

Afzali, who is free on bail, faces up to eight years in prison if convicted of four counts of making false statements. He was ordered back to court Dec. 11.

Afzali, 37, was arrested in September as federal authorities tried to thwart what they said was a plot by Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado airport van driver who allegedly received explosives training from Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Authorities say Zazi conspired to use homemade bombs in a large-scale terror attack, possibly on the city’s transit system. Court papers alleged that Zazi bought and tested bomb-making materials in a Denver suburb before traveling by car to New York, all while under FBI surveillance.

After federal authorities alerted the New York Police Department to the possible threat, detectives tried to gather information about Zazi from Afzali, an imam in the Queens neighborhood where Zazi once lived.

The next day, Afzali called Zazi, telling him, “They asked about you guys,’’ according to court papers.