Skip to comments.THREE HELD IN SAN DIEGO AS MATERIAL WITNESSES
Posted on 09/26/2001 5:19:39 AM PDT by onyx
AMERICA'S WAR ON TERROR Three men held in San Diego as witnesses in terrorist attack September 25, 2001
SAN DIEGO Three men who authorities believe knew some of the suspects in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have been detained as material witnesses and could be sent to testify before a grand jury in New York, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.
The men were arrested over the weekend after authorities determined they had information about at least two of three suspected hijackers and were unlikely to willingly testify before the grand jury, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A court hearing was held Tuesday to decide whether there is enough evidence to hold the men. A federal judge, citing national security, ordered the proceeding closed to the media and public.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Ruben B. Brooks also issued a gag order preventing attorneys from making comments on the case.
Randall Hamud, a San Diego attorney representing two of the men, declined to discuss the case as he walked into court Tuesday. However, he said: "A material witness is not a suspect and is not a criminal."
The three men, all in their 20s, are Modhar Abdallah of Yemen, Osama Awadallah of Jordan, and Yazeed Al-Salmi of Saudi Arabia, according to the law enforcement source.
Before the gag order was issued, Hamud said his clients, Abdallah and Awadallah, were acquaintances of Nawaq Alhamzi, who is one of the men suspected of hijacking American Airlines flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
The FBI has said Alhamzi and two other suspected hijackers, Khalid Al-Midhar and Hani Hanjour, lived in San Diego last year.
Abdallah, Awadallah and Al-Salmi lived in an apartment complex in La Mesa with a fourth man, Omer Bakarbashat, who is being held in New York for questioning about what he knew of Alhamzi and Al-Midhar.
Hamud said his clients had cooperated with FBI investigators and were being unjustly detained. "This is the most significant attack on our legal process since the Japanese were interned here in the 1940s," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Hamud said his clients were held in isolation in a special ward with the mentally ill at a federal jail in downtown San Diego and were denied visits with family. Al-Salmi also was being held in the jail, according to media reports. A supervisor at the Metropolitan Correctional Center declined to confirm whether the men were there.
In a statement, Awadallah's family expressed their support for him and their desire to visit him. The family also said they "will do whatever it takes to assist the authorities in their investigation."
Awadallah's brother, Jamal, was at the court but declined to speak to reporters, under the advice of his attorney. He was summoned into the courtroom to testify.
According to the family, Awadallah is a resident alien who has lived in the United States since 1998. He is studying computer science and English at Grossmont College in La Mesa.
Al-Salmi also is a student at Grossmont, according to a spokeswoman for the community college. A friend of Abdallah's, Muna Ismail, said he is a student at San Diego State University, but the school issued a statement saying it had no record of him.
Ismail was among about a dozen people who gathered outside the federal courthouse Tuesday in support of the three young men.
Before being called into the locked courtroom to testify, Ismail told reporters there was no reason to explain why Abdallah was being detained.
The petite 19-year-old woman, wearing a leopard-print hijab, the Muslim headscarf, recalled that FBI agents surrounded Abdallah with their guns drawn when they arrested him Friday in a parking lot as he dropped her off at her job at Fry's Electronics.
"They scared me," she said. She began crying and fainted in the parking lot and paramedics were called to assist her, she said. Since then, she has had trouble sleeping.
"I will never, ever, forget this day," she said. "How can they do like that?"
The law enforcement official said shoppers in the parking lot at Fry's "cheered and applauded" as agents arrested Abdallah.
Mohammed Abdullah, 45, was at the court to show support for Awadallah, whom he described as "a good, sincere Muslim."
Abdullah shared a San Diego home with Awadallah and other Muslim men for about three months earlier this year. He said the three young men were wrongly being targeted.
"We believe in justice like everybody else, but not a witch hunt."
Look for the hue and cry "witch-hunt" to spew forth from the lips of lawyers and Muslim defenders of the "poor, picked-on, profiled Arabs and people from the MiddleEast."
San Diego has the second most population of Arabs in the US. The Mexican border is handy and porous.
However, the story reports that they are apparently unwilling to testify before a Grand Jury.
That's not cooperation. That's contemptible, literally.
Better pack a toothbrush, guys. You're gonna be in Federal housing for a long time.
I take special notice of the paucity of data on two of the three subjects as to guest visa status or lack thereof.
If they are here illegaly, as far as I'm concerned, they are lucky they are not dumped onto their home country from 29000 feet.
Idea: Our airlines are hurting for passengers. Illegal aliens are hurting to get hussled back where they can do no mischief. Can't think of a better match.
Well.. to be honest, when at war would this be such a bad thing? Probably the Japanese internment went a bit overboard but..
Unbelievable, and I mean that seriously. The plot involved many Muslims living in USA.
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