A New York man accused in a foiled plot to conduct suicide bombings on the city’s subways last year sought to suppress statements he made to federal agents after his arrest.
Adis Medunjanin, in filings yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn, said he never waived his right to a lawyer and authorities knew he was represented by New York-based Robert Gottlieb. The court filings don’t say what Medunjanin told authorities about the case. Medunjanin, who was arrested in January, pleaded not guilty Aug. 6 to charges in a new indictment that added five alleged members of al-Qaeda, including Adnan Shukrijumah, one of its top operatives.
An officer “told me that what I had done was serious and it was in my family’s best interest to waive my right to counsel and to remain silent,” Medunjanin said in a court filing. “He said, ‘If you want your family to be happy you need to sign’ the waiver form.”
Shukrijumah recruited Medunjanin and two other New York men, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, for the plot, according to prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn. The indictment charges six people, one whose name has been blacked out. Zazi pleaded guilty in February, and Ahmedzay did so in April.
Gottlieb and Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for Lynch, declined to comment on the motion to suppress the statements. U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie, presiding over the case, has scheduled a hearing on the question for Jan. 25 and 26.
Prosecutors said the men plotted an attack on Manhattan subway lines for the days around Sept. 15, 2009, near the anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
Medunjanin, who lived in the Flushing area of Queens, New York, has been in custody since his arrest in January.
He is charged with nine counts including attempt to commit an act of terrorism, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, providing support to a terrorist organization and receiving military training from a terrorist group, al-Qaeda.
The U.S. also added a charge that Medunjanin sought to conduct a “suicide attack” by trying to crash his car as federal authorities chased him on the Whitestone Expressway in Queens.
Medunjanin was held and questioned by federal authorities for two days without access to an attorney, Gottlieb has said.
In the filings yesterday, Medunjanin said that after his arrest, he was given a form to sign and he checked that he did want to speak with Gottlieb, not that he didn’t want to speak with him.
He said he viewed the officer’s statement as a threat that if he didn’t cooperate, his family would be prosecuted. He said he knew that Zazi’s father had been arrested for obstruction of justice in connection to the case.
When pleading guilty, Ahmedzay said he consulted with three al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan in 2008 and that terrorist leaders at first asked him to attack “critical, well-known structures” in New York. The plan was for an attack during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he said.
He and his co-defendants decided to change the plan and attack the subway system, based on the amount of explosives Zazi decided they could produce by Ramadan, he said.
Shukrijumah, of Saudi Arabia, was described by prosecutors as one of the “leaders of al-Qaeda’s external operations program.” He has been sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for years and remains at large.
The case is U.S. v. Medunjanin, 1:10-cr-00019, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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