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By Robert Boczkiewicz
DENVER (Reuters) - The father of an Afghan immigrant accused of plotting one of the most serious security threats to the United States since the September 11 attacks pleaded not guilty on Friday to a charge that he lied to federal agents.
Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, entered his not guilty plea at a brief court hearing in Denver, one day after he was indicted for lying to the FBI agents investigating his son, 24-year-old Najibullah Zazi.
The elder Zazi spoke only once during the nine-minute hearing, answering "yes" to a question from U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer that was translated into Pashto.
Shaffer set a tentative trial date of December 7 for Zazi, who is free on $50,000 unsecured bond and subject to electronic monitoring and home confinement.
Outside court Zazi's attorney, public defender Ed Harris, told reporters he would seek to suppress evidence obtained against his client through the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
That evidence apparently includes telephone conversations between Zazi and his two co-defendants that was overheard through wiretaps, but Harris said it was too early to give specifics.
"We do not know the evidence," he said. "I've not seen a shred of evidence."
The defence attorney also told reporters that "language and materiality" would be an issue in the case, but declined to elaborate.
The younger Zazi, a Denver airport shuttle driver, was indicted last month by a federal grand jury in New York on charges of plotting to explode bombs in the United States.
He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
Prosecutors say Zazi took a bomb-making course at an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, had notes on how to make explosives on his laptop computer and acquired materials similar to those used in bomb attacks in London in 2005, buying acetone and hydrogen peroxide at beauty supply stores.
His father and a New York City imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, were both charged with lying to investigators.
The FBI has had under surveillance other suspects it believes may have helped Zazi acquire the chemicals and consulted with him on how to make explosives.
Attorney General Eric Holder has called the plot one of the most serious security threats to the United States since the September 11 attacks of 2001, saying it could have killed "scores" of Americans had it been successful.
The investigation became public in September when police raided apartments in New York City that Zazi had visited around the time of the anniversary of the 2001 attacks.
(Writing by Dan Whitcomb, editing by Anthony Boadle)

Reuters