Najibullah Zazi arrives at FBI offices in Denver for questioning....

Najibullah Zazi arrives at FBI offices in Denver for questioning. (Sept. 17, 2009) Credit: AP

The father of subway bomb plotter Najibullah Zazi was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison Friday in his obstruction-of-justice case in Brooklyn federal court.

Mohammed Wali Zazi, 56, a former New York City taxi driver who moved to Colorado, was convicted last year of conspiring to destroy some of his son's bomb-making materials, lying to the FBI and visa fraud involving his nephew.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson told Zazi that his interference with the probe of his son "could have meant the difference between life and death for thousands," but waved aside prosecutors' call for 30 years or more for aiding terrorism, finding that Zazi didn't know about the plot.

"He was doing one thing -- trying to keep his kid out of jail," Gleeson said. "He just had one thing in mind."

Najibullah Zazi and two friends from Queens allegedly hatched the subway bombing plot in 2009 after visiting an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan. The younger Zazi pleaded guilty in 2010 and is now cooperating with the government. He did not submit a letter at his father's sentencing.

Mohammed Zazi, an Afghan father of five who came to the U.S. in 1990 and became a citizen in 2007, received four-year concurrent sentences for setting in motion a family conspiracy to destroy chemicals Najibullah had stored at a relative's house in Colorado, and lying to the FBI about a Queens imam who tipped him off to the investigation.

Gleeson added 6 months for a separate case charging that Zazi had falsely claimed that a nephew was his son in a visa application in 1999. He was taken into custody in the courtroom.

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