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Egyptian National Charged With Making False Statements

Aired January 11, 2002 - 13:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: In New York City, a man who was staying in a hotel overlooking the World Trade Center on September the 11th was in court today and has been found guilty of making false statements.

With more on that, CNN's Susan Candiotti -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy.

Well, actually he's only been charged at this point. From what we understand, there will be a hearing later on this afternoon. But so far, this man has been charged in a criminal complaint of -- allegedly -- of making false statements about his alleged possession of a radio.

Now, let's start from the beginning. This is a man who is identified to us as an Egyptian national. His name is Abdallah Higazy. That is the name of the person charged in the criminal complaint. It is alleged that he checked into the Millennium Hotel -- it's Hilton hotel -- on August the 27th in New York City. This hotel overlooks the World Trade Center.

He was scheduled to leave on September the 25th, checked in on August the 27th. He was staying, according to the criminal complaint, on the 51st floor in a corner room with a view of the World Trade Center.

Now, according to court papers, he entered the U.S. on August 27 on his Egyptian passport with a student visa. Now, according to the complaint, after the World Trade Center crash occurred -- attack occurred, the hotel was evacuated. At some point after that hotel employees, according to court papers, found a radio inside a combination safe inside the hotel room.

This was -- let's describe the radio for you. This is a radio that is described as one that can communicate air-to-air among pilots and also air-to-ground. It's a transceiver. We understand, according to aviation experts, that this is a very commonly held radio -- transmitter. That is, again, hand-held. It is commonly used by pilots. Oftentimes they carry it aboard flights, according to experts, in their flight bags just in case there is failure with the on-air radio. This is a radio that can communicate with the air traffic control tower. Now, according to -- back to the criminal complaint -- when Higazy returned to the hotel on December 17 -- it is unclear whether the FBI was alerted at that time or if they were waiting for him, but they questioned Higazy at that time. And he was arrested, picked up that day for questioning and then later held as a material witness in connection with the investigation, according to sources, with the September 11 attacks.

At this point, we do know that he is expected to make a court appearance this afternoon; his first appearance in response to the criminal complaint before the court -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Susan, once again, he's only been charged with making false statements at this point?

CANDIOTTI: That's right.

WOODRUFF: And as far as we know, even though they interviewed him and it looks suspicious, they don't have anything beyond this to connect him to what happened?

CANDIOTTI: Now, additionally we have learned this, though, from the court papers: that, according to the FBI criminal -- the information from the FBI, he claimed that he used to repair these types of radios because he used to be with the Egyptian air corps. And he said he -- part of his job was to repair radios that were able to communicate with people on the ground, that pilots would use.

But he denied that this radio belonged to him. We want to make that very clear. He claimed he had no knowledge of; claimed he didn't know that it was in the hotel safe.

Nevertheless, he has been charged with making false statements. And we hope to, of course, learn more about this as the day goes on.

WOODRUFF: All right, Susan Candiotti, thank you very much. And we'll probably be talking to you later on.

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