The long trail of Justice Department losses in its trials of Islamic militants continues unabated. Yesterday, Osama Awadallah, who knew two of the 9/11 hijackers, was acquired of charges of lying to a grand jury about his acquaintance with the men. He was not accused of any participation in the 9/11 plot or involvement with Al Qaeda:
A California man whose arrest, detention and prosecution raised questions about the limits of government antiterror powers after Sept. 11, 2001, was acquitted yesterday in Federal District Court in Manhattan of charges of lying to a grand jury investigating the terrorist attacks.
…Osama Awadallah, was a college student in San Diego when he was detained 10 days after the attacks because agents had found a scrap of paper with his name and telephone number in a car at Dulles National Airport belonging to one of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi.
Mr. Awadallah, an immigrant from Jordan, was held as a material witness and treated as a high security risk for the next 20 days, much of that spent in solitary confinement, before appearing in front of a federal grand jury in Manhattan. He readily acknowledged having a passing acquaintance with Mr. Hazmi, but federal prosecutors said he had lied about his association with another hijacker, Khalid al-Midhar. Both men were aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
Mr. Awadallah’s case became a test of the government’s ability to hold material witnesses without charging them.
With last week’s election and the continuing unraveling of the Bushite national security putsch, we can breath a little sign of relief that after six years of flood tides, the tide is finally receding. It’s about time.
Now that the national security cases are falling like a house of cards perhaps it’s time for Justice to refocus attention on the remaining unindicted potential felons running free in Congress, the executive branch and their corporate hangers-on.
elizabeth fink says
I am one of the defense lawyers for Mr. Awadallah. His acquittal came as the result of the understanding of oppression by Jewish jurors. The first trial, where the jury was picked without specifically addressing juror prejudice around 9/11, was a hung jury when one Jewish juror held out under enormous pressure. He was the real hero in the case.
In the second trial, we put three Jewish women on the jury and they all immediately voted for acquittal and convinced 4 others-who were the original holdouts–to acquit him. After the verdict, they told the government that they needed a refresher course in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Richard Silverstein says
Ms. Fink: Thanks for that background information. By my lights, this is something we Jews should be proud of. I, for one, am glad that we can teach the Justice Dept. a few lessons about the meaning of the Constitutional rights and due process. Because of our history of past oppression we know that but for the grace of God it could be us facing grand juries and endless imprisonment. It’s happened to us before. That’s why we don’t want to let it happen to anyone else.