By Tom Hays
CADMAN PLAZA EAST — Brooklyn federal prosecutors have quietly added a new wrinkle to their case against a New York City man charged in one of the most serious terror plots since the Sept. 11 attacks.
In a revised indictment filed last week in Downtown Brooklyn, Adis Medunjanin was hit with a new allegation that he — along with former high school classmates Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay — tried to recruit someone identified only as John Doe to travel to Pakistan “to wage violent jihad.”
It was the first time the government has linked a fourth person in the U.S. to what evolved into an al-Qaida-sanctioned scheme to pull off what prosecutors call three “coordinated suicide bombing attacks” on Manhattan subway lines.
Lawyers for Medunjanin are now demanding that the government reveal the identity of the man before he turns up as a possible witness at a trial set for March.
“We want to know who John Doe is,” defense attorney Robert Gottlieb said Thursday.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled next week to take up the issue. The defense also plans to oppose a request by prosecutors for an anonymous jury, Gottlieb said.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment Thursday.
Medunjanin, 27, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, providing material support to a terrorist organization and other charges.
Prosecutors allege that Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay tried to recruit the fourth man before the three went to Afghanistan in 2008 to join the Taliban and fight U.S. soldiers. They instead were recruited by al-Qaida operatives, who gave them weapons training in their Pakistan camp and asked them to become suicide bombers, authorities say.
The new indictment doesn’t say what became of the fourth man.
After returning, Zazi, a former Denver airport shuttle driver, cooked up explosives and set out for New York City around the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. After becoming suspicious he was being watched by law enforcement, he abandoned the plan and returned to Colorado.
Zazi and Ahmedzay have since admitted in guilty pleas that they wanted to avenge U.S. aggression in the Arab world by becoming martyrs. Both could testify against Medunjanin at trial.
In papers filed Wednesday, prosecutors argued that jurors at Medunjanin’s trial should be kept anonymous for their safety.
“Given the nature of the allegations, the involvement of al-Qaeda, a foreign terrorist organization with global reach and a history of targeting civilians in New York City, and the virtual certainty of substantial media and public attention, a fair trial requires empaneling an anonymous jury and the other requested protective measures,” prosecutors wrote.