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California Briefing / Santa Ana

Relative of Al Qaeda figure pleads not guilty

March 03, 2009|Carol J. Williams

An Orange County man arrested for failing to disclose that his brother-in-law is a close associate of Osama bin Laden pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he lied on his citizenship and passport applications.

Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, an Afghan who became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years ago, entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on five counts alleging fraud and perjury in his dealings with the U.S. government. He could go to prison for up to 35 years if convicted on all charges.

FBI Special Agent Thomas J. Ropel III told the court last week that an informant who infiltrated Orange County mosques had recorded Niazi discussing holy war and plans to blow up abandoned buildings. Niazi, 34, has alleged to Islamic community leaders that raids of his Tustin home and FBI interrogations over the last year were aimed at pressuring him into working undercover for federal agents.

U.S. Magistrate Judge thur Nakazato freed Niazi on $500,000 bail Friday. His trial is set for April 14. A legal U.S. resident since 1998, Niazi is accused of making false statements to federal agencies by denying that he had ties to terrorism. His sister's husband, Amin al-Haq, is said to have been Bin Laden's security coordinator since before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

-- Carol J. Williams

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