A New York man who pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb the city’s subway system for al-Qaeda testified that he believes the terrorist group brainwashed him.
Najibullah Zazi, testifying against alleged co-conspirator Adis Medunjanin in federal court in Brooklyn, responded “yes, I say that,” when a defense attorney asked yesterday if he thought al-Qaeda brainwashed him.
Medunjanin, 27, Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay were recruited by al-Qaeda for a bombing of subway lines in Manhattan around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the indictment. The plot was stopped within days of its happening in 2009, prosecutors said. Zazi, 26, and Ahmedzay, 27, pleaded guilty in 2010.
“I don’t consider my life miserable but I consider my life with too much problems,” Zazi testified. “My problems is because of their bad strategy,” he said referring to al-Qaeda.
In August 2008, the three men went to join the Taliban in Pakistan where they were recruited by al-Qaeda, which gave them military training and encouraged them to conduct suicide attacks in the U.S., prosecutors said.
Also yesterday, the jury began listening to videotaped testimony of Saajid Muhammad Badat, 33, who is the first terrorist convicted in the U.K. to present testimony in a U.S. trial, the Crown Prosecution Service said in an April 16 statement.
Badat pleaded guilty in 2005 to plotting to blow up a passenger airplane by igniting a shoe bomb on behalf of al-Qaeda. He withdrew from the plot.
“I agreed to take an explosive device on an aircraft and explode it,” he said in the video. “What we call a shoe bombing.”
Badat, who was sentenced to 13 years, later reduced to 11, said he went to Afghanistan in 1999 when he was 19 to be trained “to fight jihad.” In his April 16 opening statement, Robert Gottlieb, one of Medunjanin’s lawyers, said Badat’s testimony would show that the three subway-plot suspects received much less extensive training in Pakistan.
Badat said he couldn’t travel to New York to testify because U.S. charges are pending against him stemming from the same incident and he would be arrested.
The jury will continue watching his testimony on April 23.
Badat’s co-conspirator was “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence in the U.S. Reid was flying to Miami from Paris in December 2001 when he was found trying to light his shoe.
The jury also heard testimony yesterday from Zakir Khan, 22, who knew Medunjanin, Ahmedzay and Zazi from the Hazrati Abu Bakr Siddique Mosque in Queens.
Kahn said Medunjanin agreed with the views of a sheik whose taped lectures they listened to and who said suicide bombing was allowed under Islam. Kahn said he disagreed with that view.
Kahn said the three men tried to get him to travel with them to Pakistan. His family wasn’t “happy with it at all” and made him speak to a teacher. After that, he told the three he wasn’t going.
Medunjanin “did not agree with what she said, with what the teacher said,” Kahn said.
Zazi testified that the three men went to a terrorist camp in Waziristan, Pakistan, and were taught to use rocket launchers, machine guns, grenades and pistols. He was also trained in how to make bombs.
Zazi testified April 18 that the plotters discussed bombing Grand Central Station and he mentioned the No. 3 subway train, which runs on Manhattan’s West Side, or the No. 4 train on the East Side.
“These lanes are the busiest and the most useful lanes of all,” he said.
Zazi, who finished his testimony yesterday, said Medunjanin intended to carry out the plot. When questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Bitkower about his feelings for Medunjanin, Zazi said “I love him” and broke down crying.
Medunjanin is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Bosnia. Ahmedzay immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan. Zazi was born in Pakistan. He testified that he had falsely written on immigration forms and told authorities that he was from Afghanistan.
Ahmedzay and Zazi are both cooperating with the government and haven’t been sentenced yet. Ahmedzay was the first witness in the trial. All three men have been in custody since their arrests.
U.S. District Judge John Gleeson is presiding over the trial, which may last about three weeks.
The case is U.S. v. Medunjanin, 1:10-cr-00019, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).