Resolution expected in Sept. 11 fake ID case

N.J. man accused of selling documents to 2 hijackers

February 03, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

HACKENSACK, N.J. - The case of a man held for months on charges of providing fake IDs to two of the Sept. 11 hijackers may be resolved this week, authorities said.

Mohamed el-Atriss, 46, has been in the Passaic County Jail since August, and his bail was doubled to $500,000 in November after a state judge heard evidence in secret. Last month, the Passaic County prosecutor's office referred to "national security" and invoked the specter of terrorism to try to keep the high bail and the evidence secret.

But the Appellate Division ruled that state Superior Court Judge Marilyn C. Clark must invite federal authorities to participate in the hearing if she bases her decision on national security. The appeals court gave the judge until Friday to conduct another hearing.

On Wednesday, attorneys on both sides said they had requested a delay, which was approved by the appeals court. Passaic County's senior assistant prosecutor, Steven Brizek, said el-Atriss will be back in court tomorrow.

"The matter might be resolved on that day," he said. Brizek declined to elaborate, but the only way for the case to be resolved would be for the charges to be dropped or for el-Atriss to plead guilty to some or all of the offenses.

El-Atriss' lawyer, Miles Feinstein, declined to comment beyond saying that he agreed with Brizek's assessment of what might happen this week.

El-Atriss, a naturalized citizen from Egypt, is charged with a racketeering offense, which carries a possible sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Lesser document charges could bring only probation.

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