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Zazi's dad pleads not guilty to obstruction

The father of subway bomb plotter Najibullah Zazi pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn Thursday at his arraignment on a superseding indictment charging him with obstruction of justice and visa fraud.

Defense lawyers for Mohammed Wali Zazi, prosecutors and U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie agreed that they would begin picking a jury for trial in the case in July if there is not a plea agreement.

Although Zazi's son became a valuable informant for the government after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate early this year, the father's lawyer said there was almost no chance the elder Zazi will follow the same route.

"We're definitely going to trial," defense lawyer Deborah Colson said outside the courthouse.

Mohammed Zazi, who lives in Denver and was flown to New York by the government for arraignment on the new charges, is accused of trying to destroy evidence against his son when he came under law enforcement scrutiny last year. Last week, in a sign that prosecutors were pushing for a guilty plea, they added charges that Zazi had lied to the FBI about his son's case and had been involved in a separate visa fraud relating to his nephew that dated back to 1997.

Najibullah Zazi, an airport bus driver from Denver who grew up in Queens, pleaded guilty earlier this year to terrorism charges and admitted that he had been recruited by al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan to try to set off explosive devices in New York City subways.

He has been cooperating as part of a plea deal that allows him to stay in the country, and the Justice Department has praised his assistance. But prosecutors also have continued to push the case against his father.

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