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Jordanian student charged with perjury in attack investigation
NEW YORK -- A college student from Jordan was charged Friday with lying to a grand jury about his association with two men suspected of hijacking the plane that crashed into the Pentagon last month.
The charges against Osama Awadallah were brought in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where a grand jury has been hearing testimony related to the investigation of the Sept. 11 disaster that heavily damaged the Pentagon and toppled the World Trade Center towers.
Awadallah, 21, who was studying English as a second language at Grossmont College in La Mesa, Calif., was charged with two counts of making false statements for allegedly falsely describing his association with suspected hijackers Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar. The charges each carry a potential penalty of five years in prison.
The criminal complaint signed by FBI Agent Thomas D. Rosato Jr. did not accuse Awadallah of knowing anything about the hijacking or the terrorist attacks. Awadallah was arrested Sept. 21 as a material witness in the case.
Jesse Berman, a court-appointed lawyer, declined to comment Friday. Another attorney, Randall Hamud, has said Awadallah was picked up in a witch hunt for Middle Easterners.
The charges were at least the second major perjury case to result from the worldwide investigation. Faisal M. Al Salmi was accused in an indictment unsealed Oct. 12 in Arizona with giving false statements to the FBI about his association with Hani Hanjour, who is suspected of piloting the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
In the New York case, prosecutors said Awadallah admitted during testimony Oct. 10 that he knew Al-Hazmi and saw him about 35 to 40 times in the San Diego area between April 2000 and last January. They said he identified Al-Hazmi from a series of photographs.
However, prosecutors said, Awadallah denied knowing Al-Mihdhar, saying he did not know anyone named Khalid Al-Mihdhar and did not recognize his name.
But prosecutors said in court papers Friday that Al-Hazmi was accompanied by Al-Mihdhar on a number of occasions when Awadallah saw them, including at the gas station where Awadallah worked in the San Diego area.
The government also alleged that Awadallah submitted an exam booklet in a college class in which he made reference to "Nawaf" and "Khalid."