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Muslim student acquitted in US

Published Nov 20, 2006 12:00am


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NEW YORK, Nov 19: A Muslim man who was linked to two of the Sept 11 hijackers was acquitted of all counts in his perjury case on Friday, ending a legal battle that began just 10 days after the attacks in 2001.

Osama Awadallah, 26, turned to look at his crying father as the verdict was read. Jurors began deliberating on Thursday.

''I knew that justice would prevail,'' he said to reporters. ''My goal will be to continue to be a very good citizen in this country.''

Awadallah was detained 10 days after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks and held as a material witness for three weeks while investigators looked at his friendship with one of the hijackers.

Awadallah had lived in the same San Diego community as Nawaf al-Hazmi, who helped seize the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. They attended the same mosque and saw each other dozens of times in 2000 before al-Hazmi moved to Virginia. FBI agents became curious about Awadallah when they found his phone number in al-Hazmi's car.

Investigators ultimately decided the two men were merely acquaintances, but Awadallah was charged with perjury over two statements he made to a grand jury on Oct 10, 2001.

During testimony, Awadallah said he could not remember the name of a man he frequently saw with al-Hazmi, who authorities believed to be fellow hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar.

When confronted with a school examination booklet in which he appeared to have written about meeting men named Nawaf and Khalid, Awadallah initially claimed it was not his handwriting.—AP

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