Flushing Imam leaves U.S., avoids arrest

Imam Ahmad Wais Afzali, the Flushing cleric who tipped off confessed bomb plotter Najibullah Zazi that the feds were watching him, left the U.S. for Saudi Arabia recently – to avoid being deported to his native Afghanistan.

Afzali, 38, and his wife Fatima reportedly boarded the Saudi Airlines Flight on Monday, July 5 at 2 p.m., under the watchful eye of two plainclothes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The couple is reportedly headed for Mecca, where she has a job teaching English.

According to the terms of his March plea deal, Afzali had until Thursday, July 15 to leave the U.S. voluntarily, or he would be arrested and removed to the country he fled to as an eight-year-old boy.

He had been charged with lying to federal agents, an offense that carries a prison sentence of up to eight years in matters involving terrorism. Under his agreement with the U.S. Attorney, however, Afzali’s conviction makes no mention of terrorism.

At the time he pleaded guilty to lying about telling Zazi that the “police were interested in him,” Afzali, who had been a long-time NYPD informant, reportedly broke down in tears at the thought of deportation, saying that to return to Afghanistan would be “to sign my death sentence.”

As a result of the conviction, Afzali cannot return to the U.S. without special permission.

“He left with no bitterness, left with no anger, and left with a great deal of sadness for the family and the country that he’s always loved,” Afzali’s lawyer, Ron Kuby, was quoted as saying. “We were talking as he was getting ready and he said, ‘God bless America,’” Kuby added.