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Zazi associate charged in New York bomb plot

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former high school classmate of a man accused of plotting an al Qaeda-inspired bomb attack in New York pleaded not guilty on Saturday to charges of murder conspiracy and receiving training by a terrorist organization.

Adis Medunjanin, 25, a U.S. citizen of Bosnian origin, had been arrested after a car chase that ended in a collision on a New York City bridge.

At a Saturday arraignment at Brooklyn federal court, Medunjanin was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, Pakistan, and one count of obtaining military-style training from al Qaeda.

Medunjanin, a building superintendent, appeared wearing a black hooded jacket and blue warm-up pants. He is being held without bond and U.S. District Judge Viktor Pohorelsky scheduled a detention hearing for January 14. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Loonam said he would seek a permanent order of detention.

Zarein Ahmedzay, a 24-year-old man of Afghani origin, also was arrested on Friday and pleaded not guilty to a charge of making false statements to the FBI -- specifically, that he lied about where he had visited in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Medunjanin and Ahmedzay attended high school in New York City with Afghan-born Najibullah Zazi, 24, who was arrested in September and accused of plotting a bomb attack in New York City on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Zazi has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Investigators allege the three men traveled to Pakistan together in 2008 and attended an al Qaeda training camp.

Speaking to reporters after the arraignment, Medunjanin's lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, declined to comment on Medunjanin's relationship with Zazi or the circumstances of his arrest.

"We entered an emphatic not guilty," Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb said Medunjanin had illegally been denied access to his attorney while in custody and said he would seek to have any statements made to investigators thrown out as inadmissible.

Medunjanin and Ahmedzay have been under surveillance since Zazi's arrest.

Authorities searched Medunjanin's home on Thursday afternoon and seized his U.S. passport. Medunjanin then got in his car and began racing through the streets of New York at speeds of up to 90 mph/, according to a law-enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"He called 911 (the emergency response line) and invoked the name of Allah. He said, 'We love death more than you love life!' and rammed the car in front of him," the law enforcement official said.

He was detained by New York police and handed over to federal authorities, providing them with information that led to the arrest of Ahmedzay, the source said.

Ahmedzay, a taxi driver, was arrested in Manhattan while on duty, his lawyer said.

Security experts had considered the case of Zazi, a former coffee vendor from New York who had moved to Colorado, among the most serious within U.S. borders since the attacks of September 11, 2001. In recent weeks, however, the case has been overshadowed by the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Bill Trott)