Updated 09/24/2009 10:25 PM
Queens Imam Accused Of Lying To Feds Released On Bond
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A Queens imam and another man who were in court Thursday on charges of lying to federal authorities have been released.
Imam Ahmad Wais Afzali, seen above, was released on $1.5 million bond Thursday following a hearing at Brooklyn Federal Court. He will be subject to electrical monitoring and will only be allowed to travel to work at a funeral home, religious services at a mosque and his lawyer's office.
The bond was secured on the house of Afzali's parents in Flushing, Queens.
During the hearing, Afzali pleaded not guilty to charges that he lied to federal authorities as they conducted an investigation into a possible bomb plot. Investigators claim Afzali tipped off two other suspects -- Najibullah Zazi and his father Mohammed -- that they were being investigated and then lied to officials about the tip.
If convicted, Afzali will face a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.
While speaking to reporters outside his Queens home Thursday, Afzali says he has never and will never hurt anyone, saying it's against Islamic law.
"We're all American citizens. I was raised an American, I'm an American since I was 7 years old, and next 14 days I'm going to be 38 years old," Afzali said. "My whole family is American citizens so please, before we judge in the papers, media and TV, know the facts from fiction."
"I'm really excited that my husband is home, and I'm thankful to you guys for respecting our privacy" said Fatimah Afzali, the suspect's wife.
Meanwhile, new charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the United States was filed Thursday in New York against Najibullah Zazi, 24, a Colorado resident who grew up in Queens.
According to the indictment, counterterrorism agents feared Zazi and others may have been planning for a year to detonate improvised explosive devices, including those similar to bombs used in the 2005 London train bombings and "shoe bombs" planned for use by Richard Reid.
The indictment charges that he had recently bought bomb-making supplies from beauty supply stores in the Denver area and sought "urgent" help in making the explosives during a recent trip to Queens.
Another published report says that Zazi and his associates used stolen credit cards to buy bomb-making materials.
Officials are trying to determine if there are any more suspects connected to Zazi, who authorities have linked to al-Qaida.
Zazi has publicly denied any terrorist plotting.
The suspect's father, 53-year-old Mohammed Zazi, was also in court Thursday on charges of lying to federal authorities but was released under court supervision until a hearing on October 9th.
Afzali's attorney, Ron Kuby, said the upgraded charges against Zazi would have no effect on his client.
"Originally I was worried about that, I'm not worried any longer," said Kuby. "Obviously, the government would not be consenting to his release on bail if they genuinely believed that he was involved in a terrorist conspiracy. So I don't think the government believes that. I know that it's not true and that's why he's being released."
Meanwhile, the New York City Police Department has reportedly removed a senior official from one of its two anti-terrorism units.
According to the New York Times, the official who led the Intelligence Division was replaced by the top official from the Counterterrorism Bureau.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg won't confirm the report but said changes happen for a number of reasons.
"The police commissioner moves his people around to make sure that they share experiences and skills. And any personnel moves the police commissioner makes, it's between he and I," said the mayor.
The department has not acknowledged any missteps in the investigation.
A criminal complaint says detectives asked Afzali for help in their investigation, but instead Afzali tipped off Zazi. The Times says federal authorities were forced to conduct raids and arrest Zazi sooner than expected.
The NYPD has not commented on the claim, but released a joint statement with the FBI saying the units work together on joint investigations and side by side in task forces on a daily basis.