Ahmad Wais Afzali. Image from The New York Daily News.
Ahmad Wais Afzali, the Queens imam who has pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his connection in the Najibullah Zazi case, has been ordered to leave the US within 90 days as a term of his plea deal with prosecutors. The plea spared Afzali more jail time (he was credited with his time served during hearings). Before his involvement with the Zazi case, Afzali had agreed to assist the NYPD in sniffing out a would-be terrorist who attended his Flushing mosque. Not long after, it was discovered that Afzali had informed Najibullah Zazi that he was under FBI surveillance. In the complaint and affadavit against Afzali, the special agent conducting surveillance testified about phone calls between the imam and Najibullah Zazi:
On or about September 11, 2009, pursuant to legally-authorized electronic surveillance, FBI agents intercepted a telephone conversation between Individual A (Zazi) and Individual A’s father.
During this call, Zazi’s father told Zazi to contact Afzali as soon as possible, as Zazi’s father was aware that the imam had identified Zazi in a photo to the FBI. While conversing with his father, Zazi received a phone call on the other line from Afzali. In that call Afzali told Zazi:
“I was exposed to something yesterday from the authorities. They asked me about you guys. I’m not sure if somebody complained about you. I’m not sure what happened. They said ‘Please, we need to know who they are…’ And I told them that they are innocent….”
It is clear from the transcript of this conversation that Afzali was very aware of Zazi’s activities. Afzali advised Zazi to tell the police he was in Pakistan to meet his wife: “You went to visit your wife, right?” Afzali said to Zazi. He also asked Zazi for the phone numbers of Individuals B and C, and proposed meeting with Zazi and Individuals B, C, and D.
Afzali then advised Zazi to not get into a political discussion on Iraq and Afghanistan. “Don’t get involved in Afghanistan garbage, Iraq garbage.” Toward the end of the phone call, Afzali warned Zazi that their call was being listened to by law enforcement officials. “Listen, our phone call is being monitored,” he said.
In an interview less than one week later with the FBI, Azali made a written statement that conflicted with facts in the transcripts of his intercepted communications with Zazi. In his statement, Azali denied telling Zazi’s father that the authorities had approached Azali for information about Zazi. Azali also denied telling Zazi that their telephone conversation was being monitored. Azali’s statement also omitted to report that in one of his conversations with Zazi, Azali had asked him whether “evidence” had been left in Zazi’s rental car; this question had in fact been recorded in one of the intercepted communications between Azali and Zazi.
At his sentencing yesterday, Afzali tried to justify his actions to the court. From the NY Times:
“I’m standing in front of you as a convicted felon, a lying imam, which is a physical, emotional and spiritual burden far greater than any sentence you could impose,” Mr. Afzali told Judge Frederic Block in the brief sentencing hearing.
“Honest to God,” he added, “it was never my intention to help those idiots for what they do in the name of Islam.”
Afzali addressed the media outside of the courthouse following his deportation sentence:
“To be honest with you, the reality hasn’t set in yet,” Mr. Afzali said. “Anywhere I go I’m going to be known as the imam that worked with the American government, guy used, abused and kicked out. What country will take me in?”
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