Man charged with fraud knew hijacker in Germany, lawyer says

Saturday, November 24, 2001

WASHINGTON -- An Indonesian man charged with document fraud knew Mohammed Atta because the two attended the same mosque in Germany, but he had not seen the hijacker since he came to the United States, his lawyer said Friday.

Ivan Yacub, Agus Budiman's immigration lawyer, said Budiman knew Atta by the alias Mohammed Al-Amir. Budiman and Atta attended the same mosque in Hamburg, Germany, Yacub said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Investigators believe Atta ran a terrorist cell in Hamburg before coming to the United States, where he was the suspected ringleader in the four airline hijackings on Sept. 11.

Budiman came to the United States from Hamburg in October 2000, according to a criminal complaint. Budiman is being charged with helping another man, Mohammad Bin Nasser Belfas, obtain a Virginia driver's license.

Budiman and Belfas were on a list of 370 names sought by the FBI for questioning in the attacks on New York and Washington. The list was made public by Finnish authorities more than a month ago.

Budiman is identified on the list as a U.S. contact for Atta. Belfas is identified as a contact for Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks. No charges against Belfas have been made public, and his whereabouts are unclear.

Budiman had not seen Atta since Budiman came to the United States, and the two were not close friends, Yacub said. Budiman has been questioned by federal agents "several times" about the hijackings, the lawyer said.

Yacub said he has not seen any indication that Budiman assisted the terrorists. Neither Budiman nor Belfas has been charged with any crimes related to terrorism.

"You ask yourself, 'Where's the evidence?'" Yacub said.

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