[Ppnews] Man Acquitted in 9/11 Perjury Case

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 17 18:28:50 EST 2006

NY Times

November 17, 2006

Man Acquitted in 9/11 Perjury Case


A jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan 
returned a verdict of not guilty in the second 
trial of a Jordanian immigrant who was accused of 
trying to mislead a grand jury investigating the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The jury of 9 women and 3 men found the 
immigrant, Osama Awadallah, not guilty on all 
counts. In May, a different jury became 
hopelessly deadlocked over Mr. Awadallah’s fate, 
with all but one juror favoring conviction.

The jurors, who deliberated for about an hour on 
Thursday, sent a note to Judge Shira Scheindlin 
at 3:25 p.m. today saying they had reached a verdict.

As the verdict was read Mr. Awadallah turned and 
smiled at his father, Ismail, who clapped quietly with the palms of his hands.

Thanking the jurors for their service, Judge 
Scheindlin said, “There’s an old saying — the 
government always wins because at the end of the trial justice is done.”

She added, “This verdict gives finality to a long-running case.”

Prosecutors had contended that Mr. Awadallah lied 
repeatedly when he told a grand jury in October 
2001 that he did not know Khalid al-Midhar, who 
took part in the attacks, and when he denied 
writing Mr. Midhar’s name in a school notebook.

“Mr. Awadallah didn’t tell the truth over and 
over and over,” Karl Metzner, an assistant United 
States attorney, said on Thursday in his closing 
arguments. Mr. Awadallah’s lawyer, Jesse Berman, 
countered by saying that his client never meant 
to give the grand jury wrong information, and did 
so only after enduring 20 days of incarceration 
that left him confused, frightened and paranoid.

The case began when perjury charges were filed 
against Mr. Awadallah five years ago. The charges 
were thrown out by one judge and reinstated by an 
appeals court. Mr. Awadallah’s first trial, in 
the spring, ended in a hung jury.

Mr. Awadallah, 26, was charged with two counts of 
perjury and faced a maximum of 10 years in prison 
followed by deportation if had been convicted.

Mr. Awadallah has never been accused of plotting 
with the terrorists or having advance knowledge of the attacks.

The government’s interest in Mr. Awadallah began 
after investigators discovered a scrap of paper 
with the name “Osama” and Mr. Awadallah’s former 
telephone number in the glove compartment of a 
car that Mr. Hazmi had left at Dulles International Airport, near Washington.

At the time, Mr. Awadallah was a 21-year-old 
college student in San Diego, where Mr. Hazmi and 
Mr. Midhar had lived until about a year before 
they boarded American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.

Under questioning by the 
Mr. Awadallah said he knew Mr. Hazmi, who worked 
at the same gas station and worshiped at the same 
mosque. He also said he remembered an 
acquaintance of Mr. Hazmi and described him 
physically but said he had never learned his 
name. When shown a picture of Khalid al-Midhar, 
Mr. Awadallah claimed not to recognize him.

After two days of interviews, Mr. Awadallah was 
detained as a material witness on Sept. 21, 2001, 
and was held in isolation at several jails.

In his first grand jury appearance nearly three 
weeks later, Mr. Awadallah again denied knowing 
anyone named Khalid. But after a long day of 
testimony, prosecutors showed him an essay 
booklet given to them by Mr. Awadallah’s teacher 
of English as a Second Language. In it, written 
just four days after the terrorist attacks, was 
the passage: “One of the quietest people I have 
met is Nawaf. Another one, his name is Khalid.”

Mr. Awadallah at first said the booklet appeared 
altered, because he would not have spelled 
“Khalid” that way. Mr. Berman said that his 
client realized his mistake shortly after 
testifying and alerted his lawyers to it, but 
that prosecutors chose not to call the grand jurors back into the room.

When Mr. Awadallah appeared again before the 
grand jury five days later, he acknowledged that 
the handwriting was his and that he now remembered meeting Mr. Midhar.

During the trial, Mr. Berman showed a chart of 
bruises on Mr. Awadallah’s upper arms and the 
back of his neck, which he said his client had 
sustained at the hands of guards. The government has denied any mistreatment.

Ray Rivera contributed reporting.

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