Marwan Alshehhi, accused of piloting a Boeing 757 that crashed into the World Trade Center two years ago has entered a plea of not guilty in US Federal Court from his home in Morocco. His lawyers are saying that he has an airtight alibi and that they can prove he was nowhere near the scene of the crime on Sept. 11, 2001.
Federal Prosecutors claim that the case is open and shut and that Alshehhi’s lawyers are trying for a plea bargain, perhaps in exchange for giving evidence against the remaining eighteen men still awaiting trial. According to prosecutors, the hotel owner where Alshehhi was staying two days before found a box cutter in his room and, realizing the implications of an Arab with a box cutter, he had the presence of mind to check the dumpsters outside, where he found a duffel bag.
Rudy Giuliani who will be handling the prosecution for the government said: “We have Boeing 757 manuals, three illustrated martial arts books, an 8-inch stack of East Coast flight maps, a three-ring binder full of handwritten notes, an English-German dictionary, an airplane fuel tester, and a protractor.” The FBI, unfortunately, threw away the notebook which may have provided important evidence. “We don’t need it,” Giuliani said, “the case is open and shut.” Three senior agents have nevertheless been roundly promoted, in the hopes that they will respond better to more responsibility than to criticism or reprimands.
In Morocco, Alshehhi’s family and friends don’t believe he took part in the attack. “Since he’s been back in Morocco,” said his current employer, “he’s been a model citizen. He hasn’t missed a day of work. He’s the best employee I have.” Alshehhi’s aunt claims that Marwan is not a fundamentalist. “He’s hardly religious. I’m always trying to get him to take me to the mosque, but he’s too busy.”
A man describing himself as Alshehhi’s best friend said that Marwan and he went to Afghanistan as teenagers to fight the Russians, and that they had become favorites with their CIA trainers. “Marwan used to love Americans,” he said. “He wouldn’t have lifted a finger to hurt them. But these charges have damaged his reputation and employment prospects. I don’t think he’ll be sending any Christmas cards to George Bush.”
Alshehhi refused to be interviewed “on the advice of my lawyers,” but he reiterated his claim that he had nothing to do with the crimes with which he is charged and is confident that he will be acquitted. Giuliani is not so sure. According to him, Alshehhi’s defense depends in part on his having breakfast that morning with Satam Al Suqami, but because Suqami’s passport was found in the rubble of the towers, Alshehhi’s alibi is not likely to stand up, especially as Suqami is looking for a plea bargain himself.