- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 24, 2001


An Indonesian man charged with document fraud knew Mohammed Atta because the two attended the same mosque in Germany, but he had not seen the hijacker since he came to the United States, his attorney said yesterday.

Ivan Yacub, Agus Budiman's immigration attorney, said Mr. Budiman knew Atta by the alias Mohammed Al-Amir. Mr. Budiman and Atta attended the same mosque in Hamburg, Germany, Mr. Yacub said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Investigators believe Atta ran a terrorist cell in Hamburg before coming to the United States, where he was the suspected ringleader in the four airline hijackings on September 11.

Mr. Budiman came to the United States from Hamburg in October 2000, according to a criminal complaint. Mr. Budiman is being charged with helping another man, Mohammed Bin Nasser Belfas, obtain a Virginia driver's license.

Mr. Budiman and Mr. Belfas were on a list of 370 persons sought by the FBI for questioning in the attacks on New York and just outside Washington. The list was made public by Finnish authorities more than a month ago.

Mr. Budiman is identified on the list as a U.S. contact for Atta. Mr. Belfas is identified as a contact for Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks. No charges against Mr. Belfas have been made public, and his whereabouts are not known.

Mr. Budiman had not seen Atta since Mr. Budiman came to the United States, and the two were not close friends, Mr. Yacub said. Mr. Budiman has been questioned by federal agents "several times" about Atta and the hijackings, the lawyer said.

Mr. Yacub said he has not seen any indication that Mr. Budiman assisted the terrorists. Neither Mr. Budiman nor Mr. Belfas has been charged with any crimes related to terrorism or the hijackings.

"You ask yourself, 'Where's the evidence?'" Mr. Yacub said.

The government has accused Mr. Budiman of helping Mr. Belfas obtain a Virginia ID card by certifying that he and Mr. Belfas lived at an Arlington apartment. Neither of the men actually lived there, the complaint said.

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