NEW YORK – A Pakistani man on trial in the U.S. for planning to bomb a British shopping center testified Thursday he was exaggerating his prowess with women in online chats and emails he sent mentioning potential wedding dates and a bride, denying the communiques were coded to disguise an al-Qaida plot.
Abid Naseer, taking the stand in his own defense, told a jury in Brooklyn federal court that he was posing as a woman to meet other women in a Yahoo chatroom in November 2008 when he connected with another man also posing as a woman.
Prosecutors charge Naseer was actually communicating with an al-Qaida handler who communicated from the same email account with Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to plotting to bomb the city's subway system.
"We discussed studies, life and women," said Naseer, who has pleaded not guilty. "I exaggerated my success with women ... to keep my male pride."
The government alleges Naseer headed an al-Qaida cell in the United Kingdom that was part of a larger conspiracy by the terror group to carry out attacks in Denmark and New York City. He faces life in prison if convicted. He was extradited to New York in 2013.
Questioned by a court-appointed adviser, Naseer denied emails mentioning a nikah, or Islamic wedding, specific female names and a ceremony to take place on Easter weekend 2009 were coded to disguise a forthcoming plot.
While he did have an on-again-off-again relationship with at least one woman, they were broken up at the time and had no wedding planned when the emails were sent, Naseer testified.
"I'm bored of being a bachelor now," he wrote in a January 2009 email to the person prosecutors say was the al-Qaida handler, known in the emails as Sohaib. "There will be a huge party for everyone."
Naseer testified he never learned the true identity of Sohaib because the Internet is meant to be anonymous.
"In the Internet world it's very rare to know real identities," he said. "The Internet is a world where you have multiple identities."
The complicated terror case has featured testimony from MI5 agents posing in light disguises and declassified al-Qaida documents recovered from the Pakistani compound of Osama bin Laden following the 2011 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs.