[Ppnews] Man Acquitted in 9/11 Perjury Case
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 17 18:28:50 EST 2006
November 17, 2006
Man Acquitted in 9/11 Perjury Case
By MATT SWEENEY and
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. Awadallahs 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, Theres 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. Midhars name in a school notebook.
Mr. Awadallah didnt tell the truth over and
over and over, Karl Metzner, an assistant United
States attorney, said on Thursday in his closing
arguments. Mr. Awadallahs 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. Awadallahs 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 governments interest in Mr. Awadallah began
after investigators discovered a scrap of paper
with the name Osama and Mr. Awadallahs 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. Awadallahs 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. Awadallahs 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.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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