An Afghanistan-born imam linked to the suspects in an aborted suicide bomb plot against New York City subway stations will not serve jail time, but was ordered to leave the country within 90 days. On Thursday Ahmad Afzali pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into the NYC subway bomb plot.
Afzali was sentenced to time served, four days, although he faced up to six months after pleading guilty.
Speaking emotionally to the court, he said, ”Honest to God, it was never my intention to help those idiots for what they do in the name of Islam,” he said, referring to the terrorist suspects.
The imam said he had wanted to help authorities in the investigation of the threat but lied under grilling by the FBI about his phone conversations with admitted al-Qaeda associate Najibullah Zazi. Afzali lied when he said he never told Zazi that he was under surveillance in New York.
He said he is going to spend as much time as possible with his family before leaving. He does not expect to return to Afghanistan, where he left as a child with his family, but he is not sure where he will go. If Afzali does not leave the country within 90 days, he will be deported to Afghanistan.
The judge noted he is not allowed to return without special permission from the U.S. government.
Authorities sought help last fall from the imam, a previously reliable police source, as they scrambled to thwart the plot by Zazi, a Colorado airport van driver who is the principal suspect in the case.
Two other men suspected of direct roles in the plot, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, have pleaded not guilty to charges they sought to join Zazi in what prosecutors described as three coordinated suicide bombing attacks on Manhattan subway lines.The attacks were planned to be around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Prosecutors say the attacks were modeled after the July 2005 bombings on the London transit system, in which four suicide bombers killed 52 people and themselves in an attack on three subway trains and a bus in London.
Police apprehended Zazi’s car as it entered New York in September.
Another suspect was recently arrested in Pakistan.