MIAMI – A Pakistani-born man accused along with his younger brother in an alleged terror plot to detonate bombs in New York City was critical to the plan because of his financial support, a federal prosecutor told a Miami judge at a bail hearing Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert also said that Sheheryar Alam Qazi, 30, had full knowledge that 20-year-old Raees Alam Qazi was learning how to make explosive devices via the Internet and was determined to mount an attack to avenge deaths caused by U.S. drones in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
"He full well knew what his brother was intending to do," Gilbert said of the elder Qazi. "He played a very significant role, because he paid all the bills to enable his brother."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley denied bail for Qazi, finding that he is a great risk to flee to Pakistan and avoid prosecution. The brothers have been locked up since their arrests in November on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
Both men, who are naturalized U.S. citizens, have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face a possible life prison sentence. Sheheryar Qazi was seeking release on bail Tuesday, with his attorney Ronald Chapman trying to show he wasn't aware of his brother's plans and would not flee to Pakistan if released.
Much of Tuesday's hearing centered on a statement Raees Qazi made to the FBI after his arrest. Raees Qazi had traveled to New York from South Florida over the long Thanksgiving weekend with hopes of landing a job to make enough money to pull off his attack, said FBI agent Paul Carpinteri.
But, Carpinteri testified, Raees Qazi returned home after four days because he couldn't find a job and underestimated how expensive New York would be. When he was arrested, Carpinteri said Raees Qazi told them his older brother "was fully aware of his plot to conduct an attack, he just didn't know where and when."
Under cross-examination from Chapman, Carpinteri was repeatedly asked if Sheheryar Qazi ever explicitly made incriminating statements in the many FBI recordings made of conversations with informants and over the telephone.
"He didn't say he provided money so (Raees) could make a bomb, right?" Chapman asked.
"He did not say that," Carpinteri replied.
Instead, the FBI agent and Gilbert said the two spoke in a kind of code that danced around the specific language of a violent attack. For example, in a phone call between them, Raees Qazi raised concerns about returning to South Florida from New York because he had already shaved his beard — a significant step for a Muslim man to take. Carpinteri said that was done in preparation for the attacks, so Raees Qazi could blend in.
According to the FBI recordings, his brother replied: "Don't worry about what people think. Think about what you are going to do for Allah."
Sherheryar also told his brother, according to the FBI, that he could use the time back in Florida to "practice, and you can go back later. I'll give you all the money you need."
Trial in the case is probably about a year away, in part because of a large amount of classified evidence that eventually must be shared with the defense.
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