- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

An Indonesian man suspected of having ties to the September 11 hijackers will remain in an Alexandria jail after a judge ruled yesterday there was "probable cause" he helped an associate of the terrorists obtain a Virginia driver's license.

Agus Budiman, 31, has cooperated with the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, but Magistrate Judge Teresa Carroll Buchanan said there was a risk that he might flee the United States.

"I cannot ignore the events of September 11," Judge Buchanan said at the end of the preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. "This is out of the realm of the ordinary and the defendant may be a danger to the United States."

FBI Agent Jesus H. Gomez testified yesterday that Mr. Budiman helped Mohammad Bin Nassar Belfas obtain a Virginia license on Nov. 4, 2000, by listing a home address in an apartment complex in the 1100 block of Army Navy Drive in Arlington. Neither Mr. Belfas nor Mr. Budiman resided there, but Mr. Budiman's brother had previously lived in the complex.

Mr. Belfas, who is also Indonesian, is listed on other federal documents as a contact to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi fugitive suspected of ordering the terrorist attacks. Mr. Belfas and Mr. Budiman met in Germany, according to Mr. Budiman's attorney, Mark Thrash.

In Germany, Mr. Budiman met Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, according to Mr. Thrash. Atta and Al-Shehhi were the terrorists on board the jetliners that were flown into the World Trade Center towers.

Mr. Budiman, then a student, met Atta in Hamburg, Mr. Thrash said.

He helped Atta and an associate move from an apartment so that Mr. Budiman could use their car to move himself to Brennan. "He was acquainted with them" but did not know them, Mr. Thrash said.

Mr. Budiman also was acquainted with Ramsi Binalshibh, a Muslim cleric living in Hamburg. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III called Mr. Binalshibh the 20th terrorist and said Mr. Binalshibh was supposed to have been aboard the airliner that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

"He saw him up close once but never spoke to him," Mr. Thrash said of Mr. Budiman's connections to Mr. Binalshibh.

Mr. Budiman first came to the United States in 1993 and became a frequent visitor. He came subsequently on visas, which preclude taking jobs, but worked as a taxi driver in 2000.

Mr. Thrash said his client has a girlfriend in Germany. Mr. Budiman came to the United States to make money and then return to Germany to live with her, the attorney said.

"He's despondent," Mr. Thrash said. "He loves the United States."

The case, which is now expected to go to the grand jury, was delayed this week when Mr. Budiman's original attorney recused himself after learning in court of his client's possible links to terrorists.

Four other Northern Virginians have been charged with helping nine of the 19 terrorists obtain driver's licenses that may have been used as identification to board the four hijacked airliners.


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