DENVER – The father of an Afghan immigrant accused of plotting a terror attack in New York City pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of lying to investigators.
Wearing a black pinstriped suit, Mohammed Zazi, 53, listened to court proceedings through a Pashto interpreter from Staten Island, New York. Federal public defender Edward Harris entered the plea on Zazi's behalf.
Zazi was indicted Thursday for allegedly making a false statement in a matter involving terrorism. He was arrested last month on that charge pending a grand jury indictment and is free under electronic monitoring on $50,000 bail.
Zazi's son, Najibullah Zazi, is being held without bond in New York. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiring to detonate explosives in the United States.
Outside of court, Harris said the indictment, announced by prosecutors this week, came as no surprise.
"It takes a very minimal quantum of evidence to get an indictment," Harris said.
Harris indicated that among the issues of whether Mohammed Zazi lied to investigators is how language played a role, but he declined to comment on specifics.
"We have not seen a shred of evidence to date," Harris said.
Harris also declined to answer questions about Mohammed Zazi's living arrangements or whether he is able find work.
U.S. attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Zazi was released on the same conditions previously set by U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer.
The indictment alleges Mohammed Zazi lied to the FBI when asked if he had spoken to anyone on the phone about whether his son was in any trouble with authorities.
In an affidavit filed last month, investigators say Mohammed Zazi placed a 20-minute call to a New York imam while his son was in the city on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. He also spoke by phone with his son and told him he should hire an attorney, according to the document.
"What has happened? What have you guys done?" Mohammed Zazi asked his son, according to the affidavit filed as part of a criminal complaint.
If convicted of lying to authorities, Mohammed Zazi faces a maximum of eight years in prison.
Federal authorities accuse the younger Zazi of trying to make homemade explosives using ingredients from beauty supply stores in the Denver area.
Authorities say the 24-year-old, who allegedly received terror training at an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan, was plotting an attack in New York City on Sept. 11.
U.S. District Court services manager Lucy West said the interpreter was brought in from New York because there is no one locally certified in Pashto, which is spoken in Afghanistan and western Pakistan.