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Man accused of lying about ties to al Qaeda

  • Story Highlights
  • Feds: Man tried to hide trip to Pakistan to visit al Qaeda operative
  • Authorities say Ahmadullah Sais Niazi lied to obtain U.S. citizenship
  • If convicted, Niazi could face up to 35 years in prison
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By Terry Frieden
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An Afghanistan native living in California has been arrested and charged with lying to federal authorities, including trying to hide a trip he took to Pakistan to visit Osama bin Laden's security coordinator.

The Justice Department said Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, 34, was to appear before a federal judge in Santa Ana, California, late Friday to face a five-count indictment on perjury, fraud and making false statements.

According to the indictment released by the Justice Department, Niazi told authorities in 2005 as he returned from abroad that he "had traveled to Qatar for one week to visit his family. In truth and in fact as defendant Niazi then well knew, he had traveled to Pakistan to visit family, including Dr. Amin al-Haq."

The indictment identifies al-Haq as the "security coordinator for Osama bin Laden," the leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network.

The indictment also said Niazi, a naturalized U.S. citizen, lied about his use of aliases and denied he had ever been a member or had been associated with a terrorist organization.

"Niazi then well knew he was associated with one or more groups in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan, including al Qaeda, HIG, and/or the Taliban," according to the indictment. HIG is Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, an Afghan faction.

Authorities also charged Niazi with denying he had visited Pakistan in 2004, and with having used a false passport.

The document said Niazi knew he "was not entitled to naturalization as a U.S. citizen because he had obtained his permanent residency status by fraud and because he willfully provided false statements under penalty of perjury in connection with his naturalization application."

The charges make no mention of any threat against the United States by Niazi.

If convicted on all charges, Niazi could be sentenced to a maximum of 35 years in prison.

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