Synagogue Terror Plot Case Can Move Forward, Judge Rules

A judge has declined to throw out a state-level terrorism case against a Queens man charged with plotting to blow up synagogues.

Ahmed Ferhani, 27, was one of two men accused of plotting to bomb synagogues in New York City and the Empire State building and was arrested last year after a seven-month NYPD investigation.

Prosecutors say Ferhani is mentally unstable and that there is insufficient evidence in the case. He has been institutionalized for psychiatric problems as many as 30 times - at least five of them after his family called police, his lawyers have said.

Ferhani and co-defendant Mohamed Mamdouh, 21, both from Queens, pleaded not guilty. A grand jury declined to indict the men on a top-level terror conspiracy charge.

They still face other terror and hate crime charges that carry up to 32 years in prison.

The pair was described by authorities as "lone wolves" and have no known ties to existing terrorist groups.

The FBI did not take the case because of concerns it was not a bona fide terrorism case, sources told WNYC:

Two federal law enforcement sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the FBI did not take the case of the two alleged Queens terrorists because the undercover operation was problematic and the end result was being over-hyped. They also expressed concern the case would ultimately not hold up in court as terrorism case. "Should guys that want to buy guns be off the street, absolutely," one of the Federal officials said.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne rejected the Federal critique and said "When somebody acquires weapons  and plans to bomb the largest synagogue in Manhattan he can find, what do you call it, mischief?"

Ferhani emigrated to the U.S. from Algeria in August 1995 with two siblings and his parents, who had applied for asylum. He has permanent resident status but was facing possible deportation for failing to appear before an immigration judge to explain his prior arrests, officials said. 

Momdouh, the younger suspect, is from Casablanca and worked a livery service dispatcher. He immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in August 1999 and is a U.S. citizen by virtue of his parents' naturalization.

With the Associated Press