Trial starts for father of foiled subway bomber

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The father of Najibullah Zazi, the former Flushing man who pleaded guilty in February to planning to bomb New York City subway stations to coincide with Sept. 11, 2009, went on trial Monday on obstruction of justice charges in Brooklyn federal court.

Mohammed Wali Zazi, who lived for many years in Flushing, pleaded not guilty to eight charges in December. As the jury trial opened,  he faced two charges of obstructing justice and one charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice in connection with his alleged role in hindering the FBI’s investigation into his son’s terror plot. A source close to the trial said other charges may be brought against him in Colorado, where he lived at the time of his Feb. 1, 2010, arrest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldsmith opened with a detailed explanation of what part the government alleges the elder Zazi played in disturbing the FBI’s “frantic” effort to stop his son and others from bombing subway stations in Manhattan.

“Mohammed Wali Zazi decided to stand in the FBI’s way, he lied to the FBI, and he convinced others to lie to the FBI … Because of the defendant, the FBI lost valuable time and evidence,” Goldsmith said. “When the defendant learned that Najibullah Zazi was a key suspect, he tipped him off.

Justine Harris, a lawyer for Mohammed Zazi, countered Goldsmith’s argument, saying he “tried to do the right thing for a long time,” coming to America in 1990, working as a New York City taxi driver and getting his U.S. citizenship. He then took his family to Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb, hoping to find a more relaxed, less-expensive lifestyle.

“That promise of a better life came crashing down when he learned the FBI was looking for his son,” Harris said before Judge John Gleeson and an 18-member jury. “These are not lies at all. They are misunderstandings and miscommunications. They are not lies.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 11:30 am, October 12, 2011
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