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Queens cabbie pleads not guilty in terror plot

The home of terrorism suspect Zarein Ahmedzay, left,

The home of terrorism suspect Zarein Ahmedzay, left, is shown in the Queens borough of New York. (January 8, 2010) Credit: AP

A Flushing cabdriver was ordered held without bail by a federal magistrate-judge late Friday on charges he lied to the FBI during its investigation of an alleged plot to bomb New York City.

During a brief arraignment in Brooklyn federal court, Zarein Ahmedzay, 24, entered a plea of not guilty before Magistrate-Judge James Orenstein to a one-count indictment that charged him with lying to investigators about the details of a trip he made to Pakistan and Afghanistan from August 2008 through January 2009.

The indictment also charged Ahmedzay with lying to the FBI when asked whether he ever discussed with a man identified as "John Doe" about attending a military-style training camp and about whether John Doe attended such a facility in Pakistan.

Though not identified in the indictment, John Doe may refer to Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado man arrested last year on charges he plotted to make bombs to kill Americans. "I have no light to shed on that," said Zazi's defense attorney Michael Dowling.

Ahmedzay was arrested early Friday along with Adis Medunjanin, 25, also of Flushing, as an offshoot of the FBI probe in a suspected bombing conspiracy case which led to the arrest of the 24-year-old Zazi. Zazi is being held without bail on charges in the bombing plot. Zazi, who like Ahmedzay was born in Afghanistan, attended a training camp in Pakistan, according to law enforcement officials.

Medunjanin wasn't in court late Friday and it wasn't clear what charges he might face. An angry defense attorney Robert Gottlieb showed up at court saying he was told by prosecutors that the arraignment of his client had been called off.

Gottlieb also said the FBI had told him Medunjanin had said he couldn't afford him, a statement the lawyer thought was calculated to cut him out of the picture and possibly continue questioning his client in an effort to get his cooperation.

"Even though they have been explicitly told there is to be no questioning," said Gottlieb, who added prosecutors hadn't told him where his client is being held or what charges he faces.

While speaking to reporters, Gottlieb said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Knox called to ask that he be in court Saturday morning.

The arrests of Ahmedzay and Medunjanin, an ethnic Bosnian, capped a day of fast-moving events that began when FBI agents and cops with the federal joint terrorism task force served a search warrant to take custody of Medunjanin's passport Thursday afternoon. A law enforcement official who didn't want to be named said Medunjanin complied by turning over the passport and then left his house by car.

But as investigators followed him in their vehicle, Medunjanin started driving erratically on the Whitestone Expressway, rear-ended another vehicle and then fled on foot, the official said.

Ahmedzay was driving a cab in Greenwich Village late Thursday evening when he was pulled over by task force members and taken into custody, the official said. Court-appointed attorney Michael Marinaccio consented to Ahmedzay being held without bail temporarily until a court hearing Tuesday, when he expects to present a bail package.

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