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Zazi’s uncle to turn on him

Zazi’s uncle to turn on him
Naqib Jaji, uncle of terror plotter Najibullah Zazi, (above) has cooperated with the government in exchange for his release on his own recognizance. AP Photo/Ed Andrieski
By Connor Adams Sheets

The uncle of terror plotter Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty more than a year ago to conspiring to obstruct justice in the days leading up to Zazi’s arrest and is cooperating with the federal government against his nephew, according to federal documents unsealed last week.

Naqib Jaji, the uncle of Zazi, the Flushing man who pleaded guilty to conspiring to bomb the New York City subway system on the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, copped the plea Jan. 22, 2010, in exchange for his release on bail on his own recognizance, the documents show.

Jaji “continues to cooperate with the government and is expected to testify at several trials in the coming year,” according to the new documents, and the government is accordingly requesting that his bail conditions be loosened.

Jaji, who was 38 in January 2010, was indicted for conspiring to obstruct justice and arraigned Jan. 14, 2010, in a sealed federal courtroom in Brooklyn, according to the U.S. district attorney’s office.

When he pleaded guilty to the charge, the government moved to keep related documents sealed out of concern for Jaji’s safety and due to the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation, according to the new court documents. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch requested in an April 15, 2011, letter that federal Judge Raymond Dearie unseal those documents, saying it was no longer “necessary” to keep them confidential.

Since his release on bail, Jaji has been under curfew and his whereabouts tracked by electronic monitoring, but he is working as a taxi driver and lives with his wife and children, the new documents revealed. He has been fully compliant with the bail conditions since he was released, according to the documents, and “the government does not believe Jaji poses a risk of flight or danger to the community,” according to Lynch’s letter.

As such, Lynch — joined by defense counsel and pre-trial services in the request — implored Dearie to remove the bail condition that Jaji be subject to the curfew and electronic monitoring, according to the letter.

Defense counsel and federal prosecutors are scheduled to return to court Aug. 15 to report on the status of the case against Jaji.

Jaji called his nephew, who worked as a driver shuttling customers back and forth from Denver International Airport to downtown Denver, “very greedy” during a September 2009 interview with the Denver Post, but said it was “impossible” he was a terrorist.

“He never said a bad word about the U.S.,” Jaji told the Denver Post. “He always talked business, how many customers he had a day.”

Najibullah Zazi moved from Flushing to Colorado in early 2009 and lived with his father’s sister and Jaji in the suburbs of Denver. He grew up in Flushing and graduated from Flushing High School, along with his admitted accomplice in the terror plot, Zarein Ahmedzay, and accused fellow plotter Adis Medunjanin.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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