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The Case of Osama Awadallah - Defendant to Face Trial in November

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Investigative Report by Douglas J. Hagmann, Director
director@homelandsecurityus.com

  • Defendant possessed box cutters, Videotape of Martyrs, bin Laden Photographs
    Defendant knew three of the suspected hijackers
    Defendant Lied to Grand Jury
    Defendant and others “celebrated” anticipated attack on September 10, 2001

5 August 2005: On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin rejected arguments that the retrial of a Jordanian accused of lying about whether he knew one of the September 11 hijackers should be moved because jurors in New York were biased. Lawyers for Osama Awadallah, 26, had argued for a change of venue when it emerged after his first trial that several jurors “were tearfully discussing their September 11 recollections” during the deliberation process. At that time, a holdout juror forced a mistrial.The federal judge ruled that jurors in New York had a more ethnically diverse background than in other parts of the United States, adding that careful jury selection could discern bias. She further stated that “the effects of September 11 were felt nationwide, and there is no reason to believe that jurors in a different jurisdiction would lack an emotional response with prejudicial effects.”

Awadallah is charged with lying during grand jury investigations in the weeks after the attacks when he denied knowing Khalid al-Midhar, one of the five men who hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. The ruling clears the way for AWADALLAH to face a new trial in November.

BACKGROUND: The Strange Case of Osama AWADALLAH

The Strange Case of Osama Awadallah & the Failure of the U.S. Justice System

Man With Prior Knowledge Of 9/11 Hijackers, Attacks, Could Be Set Free for Second Time Next Week by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in NY

Defendant possessed box cutters, Videotape of Martyrs, bin Laden Photographs
Defendant knew three of the suspected hijackers
Defendant Lied to Grand Jury
Defendant and others “celebrated” anticipated attack on September 10, 2001

26 May 2005: On 31 October, 2001, Osama AWADALLAH, 21, a Jordanian student at Grossmont College in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, was indicted on 2 counts for violations of 18 USC § 1623, false declarations before a grand jury. AWADALLAH knew three of the suspected hijackers who spent much of last year living in that area — Nawaf al-Hazmi, Hani Hanjour and Khalid al-Midhar, according to authorities.

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During the course of the investigation into the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a vehicle registered to hijacker Nawaf Al-Hazmi was found in a parking lot at Dulles Airport. A search of that vehicle found documents relating to another 9/11 terrorist hijacker, Khalid Al-Mindhar, and a piece of paper with the name “OSAMA” and an apparent telephone number of 589-5316. Further investigation revealed that this was the defendant’s suburban San Diego, (El Cajon ) California telephone number. FBI agents opened and conducted an investigation of Awadallah, and a search of his car found evidence that he had relationships with two 9/11 hijackers Al-Hazmi and Al-Mindhar, finding references to both written in a college exam booklet. Also according to prosecutors, Awadallah rented a room in the same house as Alhazmi, and was also seen with Alhazmi and al-Midhar at a Texaco gas station in La Mesa where he worked.

Further, it is apparent that Awadallah had prior knowledge of he 9/11 attacks and celebrated the attacks beforehand. As noted on page 250 of the 9/11 Commission Report: “Finally, according to an uncorroborated witness account, early on the morning of September 10, [2001] Abdullah, Osama Awadallah, Omar Bakarbashat, and others behaved suspiciously at the gas station. According to the witness, after the group met, Awadallah said “it is finally going to happen” as the others celebrated by giving each other high fives.”

Awadallah was arrested under a material witness warrant on 23 September 2001 along with Yazeed Al-Salmi of Saudi Arabia and Mohdar Abdallah of Yemen. All three were taken to New York to testify before the grand jury to obtain information about their involvement and association with the two hijackers.

In testimony before a grand jury on 10 and 15 October 2004, he denied knowing al-Midhar even after prosecutors confronted him with a copy of his own journal in which he mentioned al-Midhar. While testifying before the grand jury, however, Awadallah denied any involvement with Al-Hazmi and Al-Mihdhar. He further stated that he had not written the names Nawaf and Khalid that had been found in his college exam booklet. Contrary to his testimony, investigation determined and confirmed that Awadallah did in fact know Kahlid and had written statements in his exam booklet with regard to Al-Hazmi and Al-Mihdhar. Awadallah pleaded not guilty to both charges and was released on $500,000 bail. As the case progressed, Awadallah, through his attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the indictment alleging that (1) he had been denied due process by the government; (2) the government interfered with his right to counsel, and (3) the evidence submitted to the grand jury had been in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of Optional Protocol on Disputes. The Court found that Awadallah had been unlawfully detained and ordered his grand jury testimony suppressed. As a result, the indictment against him dismissed in 2002.

Charges Re-Filed

Upon appeal in 2003, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restored the charges against Awadallah, noting that the Jordanian student failed to come forward to say he had known two of the September 11, 2001 hijackers.

Now, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin is once again considering throwing out perjury charges related to his alleged advance knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks. This time, the judge is considering tossing out the charges because was handcuffed while he testified to a grand jury about his associations with two of the terrorist hijackers.

The District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin scheduled a special Memorial Day hearing to decide whether a jury will begin hearing the case against Osama Awadallah on Tuesday. Defense lawyers argued this week that the case should be dismissed to be consistent with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday that found it unconstitutional to force capital murder defendants to appear before juries in shackles during a trial’s penalty phase.

Although different venues, Awadallah lawyer Elizabeth Fink told the judge that the grand jury should be viewed the same as a trial jury because jurors saw Awadallah handcuffed and were told he was dangerous as they decided whether to indict him.

“It’s a serious issue,” the judge said, indicating there would be no trial if she rules in their favor.

In 2002, the judge harshly criticized investigators and tossed out perjury charges against Awadallah, stating that the government’s jailing of witnesses for a grand jury probe of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was “unconstitutional.” Now, it appears that Awadallah will walk again.

Scheindlin, Shira A.

Born 1946 in Washington, DC

Federal Judicial Service: U. S. District Court, Southern District of New York;

Nominated by William J. Clinton on July 28, 1994, to a seat vacated by Louis J. Freeh; Confirmed by the Senate on September 28, 1994, and received commission on September 29, 1994.

Education:

University of Michigan, B.A., 1967
Columbia University, M.A., 1969
Cornell Law School, J.D., 1975

Professional Career: Private practice, New York City, 1975-1976
Law clerk, Hon. Charles Brieant, Jr., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 1976-1977
Assistant U.S. attorney, Eastern District of New York, 1977-1981
General counsel, New York City Department of Investigation, 1981-1982
U.S. Magistrate, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 1982-1986
Adjunct professor, Brooklyn Law School, 1983-1994
Private practice, Short Hills, New Jersey, 1986-90
Private practice, New York City, 1990-1994

Race or Ethnicity: White

Gender: Female

Source: http://air.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=2112

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