Man who lived with two Sept. 11 hijackers to remain in custody

Monday, July 8, 2002

By Brian Witte ~ The Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- A Jordanian citizen who FBI officials believe lived with two Sept. 11 hijackers last year will remain in federal custody, a magistrate ordered Monday.

Rasmi Al-Shannaq, 27, is charged with obtaining a fake visa from the U.S. embassy in Qatar.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey Eisenberg asked to keep Al-Shannaq in custody, saying he is a flight risk because he is a Jordanian citizen and because of the charge against him.

Magistrate Susan Gauvey appointed an attorney to represent Al-Shannaq. In a written statement, Al-Shannaq told the court he is unemployed and does not have any money.

There is no evidence Al-Shannaq aided the hijackers, said his newly appointed attorney, Jim Wyda. He described his client as living a "relatively normal life" until his June 24 arrest.

"What we have right now is a relatively minor fraud case," Wyda said. He noted the only charge Al-Shannaq faces involves his own visa.

Al-Shannaq had been held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service since his arrest June 24 in Baltimore. Gauvey ordered him transferred to the custody of U.S. marshals.

Al-Shannaq is scheduled to appear Wednesday in court for a detention hearing. The immigration charge carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.

Investigators want to know what Al-Shannaq knew about the hijackers and any possible plans they might have discussed, Justice Department officials have said.

The men Al-Shannaq are said to have lived with in the Washington suburbs -- Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi -- are suspected of hijacking American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. A law enforcement source has said Al-Shannaq has acknowledged he lived with two of the hijackers.

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