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Hijackers' Roommate to Remain in Custody

Law: A Jordanian man is held on visa-fraud charges. Investigators want to see what he knows about two of the terrorists who crashed a jet into the Pentagon.

July 09, 2002|From 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. Atty. 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 that the only charge Al-Shannaq faces involves his own visa.

Al-Shannaq had been held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service since his arrest 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 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 is said to have lived with in the Washington suburbs--Hani Hanjour and Nawaq Alhamzi--are suspected of hijacking American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. A law enforcement source has said Al-Shannaq has acknowledged that he lived with two of the hijackers.

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