Federal investigators have questioned two men whose photographs were shown to a Muslim religious leader along with a picture of an Afghan immigrant accused of plotting a bomb attack in New York City.
Adis Medunjanin, a 24-year-old Bosnian immigrant, met voluntarily with investigators for 14 hours, said Robert Gottlieb, a New York lawyer representing him. Zarein Ahmedzay, a 24-year-old New York City cab driver, also was interviewed by the FBI, said his brother, Nazir Ahmedzay.
Both men's photos were among four shown to Ahmad Wais Afzali, an imam at a Queens mosque accused of tipping off Najibullah Zazi that New York Police Department detectives were searching for him. Ron Kuby, a New York lawyer representing the imam, confirmed that detectives showed Afzali photos of Medunjanin and Ahmedzay along with Zazi's.
Naiz Kahn, a high school friend of Zazi's who allowed him to stay in his Queens apartment last month when prosecutors say Zazi was preparing his attack, said he also has been questioned by the FBI. But his photo was not among those shown to the imam, said Kuby. The imam did not know the identity of the man in the fourth photograph, Kuby said.
Neither man is tied to the terror plot prosecutors claim Zazi was pursuing, said Gottlieb and Ahmedzay's brother.
Prosecutors and the FBI declined to comment.
Afzali, a reliable police source in the past, has pleaded not guilty to lying to federal agents who asked him about his phone calls to Zazi after detectives showed him the photographs. Kuby said Afzali was only doing what police asked him to do.
Zazi, 24, who left New York earlier this year to take a job driving an airport shuttle in Denver, is the only person charged in an international terror investigation described by Attorney General Eric Holder as one of the most significant plots uncovered in this country since 9/11. Zazi, who's being held without bond, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction.
Prosecutors have said Zazi and others they have not identified received explosives training at an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan. U.S. intelligence and senior administration officials have said they became aware of Zazi's connection to a possible plot in late August. They said he was recruited and trained by al-Qaida, and he had contact with a senior al-Qaida operative.
Investigators are still hunting for additional players and expect to make more arrests. Officials say Zazi's suspected accomplices are under surveillance and are no longer a threat because the plot was thoroughly disrupted.
Gottlieb said Medunjanin has met with investigators, who have not been in contact with him since the interview weeks ago. After that meeting, Gottlieb said Medunjanin hired him.
Medunjanin agreed to meet with investigators after they raided his apartment last month, Gottlieb said. "He had nothing to hide," Gottlieb said.
FBI agents seized computers and cell phones from the apartment, but returned them later, he said.
"There's no indication of any evidence that he was involved in a crime," he said. "There would be no basis for charging him with anything."
Investigators had an interest in Medunjanin before the raid, Gottlieb said. He wouldn't elaborate. "The reasons are not any evidence of wrongdoing or crimes," he said.
Gottlieb did not confirm that his client's photo was among those shown to the imam.
Medunjanin grew up in the same area of Flushing, Queens, as Zazi, Gottlieb said, declining to elaborate.
He came to the U.S. in 1994 with his family, went to high school in Flushing and became a citizen in 2002, Gottlieb said.
Medunjanin lives in a Flushing apartment with his parents and sister. He works for a property management company, and has worshipped in the past at the mosque where Afzali has spoken, Gottlieb said.
"He's going through hell right now," the lawyer said. "His entire family finds this unbearable. They just wait everyday for some word about how this will turn out."
Gottlieb declined to discuss Medunjanin's travel.
Zarein Ahmedzay, the other man identified by the Queens imam in the photos with Zazi, has no connection to Zazi's case, other than being interviewed by the FBI, and was not involved in a plot, said Nazir Ahmedzay, his brother. "No, never," Nazir Ahmedzay said during a brief interview outside his apartment.
Zarein Ahmedzay, a U.S. citizen, lives with his brother in a Flushing apartment in the same neighborhood as the one Zazi's family shared before moving to Denver in January.
Nazir Ahmedzay said his younger brother has never been to Colorado. He said Zazi has never been to their apartment.
Zazi's father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, also faces a charge of lying to investigators. A Denver grand jury indicted the 53-year-old Aurora, Colo., resident Thursday for making a false statement.
He is free on $50,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in federal court Friday.