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Accused NY bomb plotter's father faces new charges

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The father of an Afghan-born airport shuttle driver accused of plotting an al Qaeda-inspired bomb attack on New York City has been charged with conspiring to alter, destroy and conceal evidence in the case.

Najibullah Zazi (C) is escorted by U.S. Marshals after a helicopter landing at a New York Police Department facility in Brooklyn, New York, September 25, 2009. REUTERS/New York Police Department

The indictment against Mohammed Wali Zazi was unsealed by Brooklyn federal prosecutors Monday, hours before he appeared in U.S. District Court in Denver and waived his right to contest his transfer to New York.

Zazi, 53, pleaded not guilty in October to separate charges of lying to the FBI agents investigating his son, Najibullah Zazi, 24, last year in Denver.

Both men are natives of Afghanistan. The father is a naturalized U.S. citizen, the son a permanent legal resident.

During a 15-minute court hearing in Denver, the elder Zazi was informed that the original charges against him had been dismissed to make way for the indictment returned in New York, and he agreed to be moved there without further proceedings.

Handcuffed and dressed in the white tunic he was wearing when arrested Monday at his Denver-area home, the bearded Zazi said little in court, conferring in whispers with his lawyer through a Pashto-speaking interpreter.

“I understand everything that was said,” he replied through the interpreter to the presiding U.S. magistrate. It was not immediately clear how soon Mohammed Zazi’s transfer to Brooklyn would take place.

If convicted of the charge -- conspiracy to obstruct justice -- he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The elder Zazi is accused of conspiring to alter, destroy and conceal objects, including liquid chemicals, “with the intent to impair the objects’ integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding.”

Najibullah Zazi, a former coffee vendor who had moved to Colorado and worked as a shuttle driver, was arrested in September and accused of plotting a bomb attack in New York City on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. He has pleaded not guilty.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called it one of the most serious security threats to the United States since the hijacked airliner attacks of September 11, 2001.

A New York imam and two men who attended a New York City high school with the younger Zazi also have been charged. All have pleaded not guilty.

According to press reports, Najibullah Zazi’s uncle, Naqib Jaji, 38, also has been charged in the case and is reported to have pleaded not guilty to one felony count.

Additional reporting by Robert Boczkiewicz in Denver; Editing by Bill Trott