Student Detained After Terrorist Attacks Is Released on Bond
A college student accused of promoting terrorism by lying to a grand jury was freed from federal custody last month after posting $500,000 bond.
Osama Awadallah, 21, planned to fly home Dec. 14 to San Diego, where family and friends raised $50,000 cash — and turned over the title of his brother’s ice cream truck — to secure the bond.
“I can’t describe it,” Awadallah said as he exited the federal courtroom in New York. “It’s been three months.”
Awadallah, a Jordan native and a student at Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif., was one of three men detained in San Diego as material witnesses about 10 days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (see Black Issues, Dec. 6). Awadallah testified before a grand jury that he knew one of the suicide hijackers. But he was accused of lying about his association with another member of the terrorist team that flew an airliner into the Pentagon.
Awadallah was not accused of participating in the attacks. But in arguing against bail in October, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Baker said, “By lying to the grand jury, the defendant’s acts promoted terrorism.”
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin set bail in November, noting Awadallah had recanted the testimony in question at a subsequent grand jury appearance.
Scheindlin said the evidence against Awadallah was “not particularly strong.” She ruled that while out on bail, he must live with his brother, wear an electronic bracelet and report daily to a pretrial services officer.
“If he would jump (bail), not only would his family owe a half-million dollars, but (Attorney General John) Ashcroft would be driving a 1971 Ford ice cream truck,” said Awadallah’s lawyer, Jesse Berman.
Berman has filed papers accusing federal marshals and jail guards of abusing Awadallah during his detention. Officials have refused to discuss the accusations.
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