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Dad of NYC subway bomb plotter faces prison time

February 10, 2012 4:47:44 AM PST
The father of an admitted terrorist faced up to 40 years in prison at sentencing Friday after his conviction on charges that he destroyed evidence and lied to investigators to cover up his son's plot to attack the New York City subways in 2009 as one of a trio of suicide bombers.

Mohammed Wali Zazi, 55, could spend the rest of his life behind bars, though the term could be much lower under federal sentencing guidelines. He remained free on bail after his conviction in July.

His son, Najibullah Zazi, admitted that he returned from a trip to Pakistan to his family's Denver-area home to practice concocting homemade bombs using chemicals extracted from common beauty supplies. He then drove to New York City in September 2009 with plans to attack the subway system in a "martyrdom operation" before he learned he was being watched by the FBI and fled back to Colorado. The plot was sanctioned by al-Qaida.

The elder Zazi was found guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice at a trial detailing the unraveling of a working-class family of Afghan-Americans amid chilling allegations of homegrown terror.

Following his trial, Mohammed Zazi. who is an Afghan-born U.S. citizen, admitted that he forged immigration forms on behalf of a nephew who ended up testifying against him at his trial. He said he instructed a lawyer to fill out the forms to say the nephew was his son so that he could enter the United States more easily.

The nephew and Zazi's brother-in-law both testified at the trial how the FBI and immigration agents pressured the family as soon as the plot unraveled. Both had pleaded guilty and agreed to become government witnesses to stave off stiff prison terms.

When it became clear Najibullah Zazi was a suspect and family members were getting grand jury subpoenas, the cousin said "Uncle Wali" recruited him to get rid of plastic containers of peroxide and other evidence. The family agreed to code name the chemicals "medicine" in case the FBI was eavesdropping, he said.

He also claimed his uncle told them not to say anything if they were asked questions.

Mohammed Zazi has maintained his innocence.

"There are so many things that didn't come out in court," the former cab driver from Aurora, Colo., said after his conviction. He didn't elaborate.

Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges and is awaiting sentencing, faces life in prison.

One of Zazi's former high school classmates also has admitted in a guilty plea that they wanted to avenge U.S. aggression in the Arab world by becoming martyrs. Both could testify against a third former classmate at a trial expected to begin in mid-April.

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