Image: Ahmadullah Sais Niazi
Mona Shafer Edwards  /  AP
This courtroom artist's sketch shows Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, 34, during his arraignment in federal court in February.
updated 3/2/2009 4:53:02 PM ET 2009-03-02T21:53:02

The brother-in-law of an Osama bin Laden bodyguard pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges that he lied in denying ties to terrorist groups on his U.S. citizenship and passport applications.

An April 14 trial date was set for 34-year-old Ahmadullah Niazi.

The Afghan native and naturalized U.S. citizen was released Friday on $500,000 bail after his arrest Feb. 20 in a raid at his home in the Orange County suburb of Tustin. On Monday he appeared in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.

Niazi's sister is married to Amin al-Haq, identified in court papers as a high-ranking al-Qaida member who was believed to have been bin Laden's bodyguard and security coordinator around and before Sept. 11, 2001.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Deirdre Eliot declined to comment outside court. Niazi referred questions to his attorney, deputy federal public defender Chase Scolnick, who declined to comment.

Niazi has been living in the United States since 1998 and became a U.S. citizen in 2004. He is charged with perjury, passport fraud, unlawful procurement of naturalization and making a false statement.

At a detention hearing last week, FBI Special Agent Thomas J. Ropel III testified that an FBI informant who had infiltrated Niazi's mosque made recordings of him talking about blowing up buildings, acquiring weapons and sending money to the Afghan mujahadeen.

Outside court, a spokeswoman for the Council on Amercian-Islamic Relations said last week's public disclosure that the FBI sent an informant into at least one Orange County mosque has led some Muslims to forgo prayers at their mosque out of fear.

"There's this mood in the Muslim community. There's nervousness, there's anxiety and there's a sense of betrayal," said Munira Syeda, CAIR spokeswoman.

"We don't know if there are other informants out there. ... This is one case that everybody's watching very closely."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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