A U.S. federal magistrate ordered an Indonesian man held without bail after an FBI agent testified Thursday that one of the Sept. 11 hijackers had used the man's Virginia address to gain entry into the United States.
U.S. Magistrate Theresa Carroll Buchanan said she could not ignore the "close ties" between Agus Budiman and the hijackers. Budiman, 31, is awaiting trial on document-fraud charges.
Those ties "lift these events out of the realm of the ordinary," Buchanan said in denying bail. She also found probable cause to forward the case to a grand jury.
FBI special agent Jesus Gomez linked Budiman to three of the hijackers, including suspected ringleader Mohammed Atta, and two others believed to have close ties to the terrorists.
Budiman's defense attorney, Mark Thrash, characterized the government's case as "smoke and mirrors," saying Budiman had only a passing acquaintance with the hijackers through a Hamburg mosque. He said there was no evidence that Budiman had shared the hijackers' views about the United States or known of their plot.
Gomez testified that hijacker Ziad Samir Jarrah used Budiman's name to get into the United States, and Ramsi Binalshibh, a Muslim cleric from Hamburg, twice unsuccessfully tried to use Budiman's name to get into the country. The FBI says Binalshibh was supposed to be the 20th hijacker on Sept. 11.
Thrash said the two men used Budiman's address without his permission and suggested that an acquaintance of Budiman, Mohammed Bin Nasser Belfas, may have given Budiman's address to the men.
"If you were going to be around after Sept. 11, would you voluntarily give your address out?" Thrash asked.
Budiman, a driver for a food delivery service, is charged with helping Belfas, a fellow Indonesian, fraudulently obtain a Virginia driver's license. Belfas is believed by authorities to be a U.S.-based contact for Osama bin Laden. Belfas' whereabouts are unknown.
Prosecutor Steven Mellin acknowledged that the government didn't know the details of Budiman's relationships with the hijackers. However, he called the connections "extensive."
"They're suspicious and they're troubling," he said.
By Matthew Barakat © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.