Terrorism Suspect Pleads Not Guilty, Held Without Bail

An Afghan immigrant has pleaded not guilty to plotting a terrorist attack on New York City using common chemicals. Najibullah Zazi's lawyer entered the plea Tuesday in Brooklyn.
By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 29, 2009; 2:57 PM

NEW YORK -- A 24-year-old Afghan immigrant was ordered held without bail Tuesday after pleading not guilty to planning a terrorist attack on New York City with bombs made from beauty supply chemicals.

A lawyer for Najibullah Zazi, a coffee cart vendor and airport shuttle driver, entered the plea in federal court in Brooklyn. Zazi, bearded and wearing an orange T-shirt under a dark prison shirt and pants, appeared alert and calm as he watched the judge, and gave a thumbs-up sign to his lawyer as he left the courtroom.

Prosecutors say Zazi bought beauty products in Colorado containing hydrogen peroxide and acetone, which can be used to make bombs, and kept directions for bomb making on his laptop computer. They also say that he traveled to Pakistan last year for explosives training from al-Qaeda.

Zazi's attorney, J. Michael Dowling, disputed the allegations. "I'd like to stop this rush to judgment because what I've seen so far does not amount to a conspiracy charge," he said.

Authorities say that over the summer Zazi used stolen credit cards in suburban Denver to stockpile chemicals that could be used for bombs. Dowling said he has not been given the names of any alleged co-conspirators.

"I don't know the names of anybody else that allegedly conspired with Mr. Zazi," Dowling said Tuesday. "Those names have not been produced."

Judge Raymond J. Dearie set Zazi's next court appearance for Dec. 3.

A Queens imam was also arrested in the case after investigators asked him to reach out to Zazi. Prosecutors say the imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, told Zazi that police were looking for him, and law enforcement officials have said this forced a premature arrest.

Court documents say that Zazi lived until last year with his family in the Flushing section of Queens, but moved to Aurora, Colorado, immediately after returning from Pakistan. He bought bottles of beauty products in Colorado over the course of several weeks.

On Sept. 6, prosecutors say Zazi rented a Colorado hotel suite with a stove and left acetone residue behind, which the authorities suggest could be evidence of bomb-making. Zazi contacted another person for help making the bomb, "each communication more urgent in tone than the last," according to court documents.

On Sept. 9 when Zazi rented a car and drove to New York, the FBI was tracking him. On Sept. 10, Zazi stayed at his family home in Queens and told Afzali that he feared he was being watched. On Sept. 12, Zazi cut his five-day trip short and flew back to Denver.

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