Egyptian had 'pilot radio near towers'

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An Egyptian man appeared in court in Manhattan last night charged with lying to investigators about a radio designed to communicate with airplane pilots found in a hotel room near the twin towers where he was staying on 11 September.

Court papers said that Abdallah Higazy entered the US on 27 August on a student visa and checked into the Millennium Hilton Hotel next to the World Trade Centre. He was not due to leave the hotel until 25 September. His room was on the 51st floor and had a direct view of the towers.

The complaint said that Mr Higazy had the radio hidden with other belongings in the small combination safe in the room. The type of radio involved, a transceiver, can be used for air-to-air and ground-to-air communications and is often used by pilots for talking to one another.

All the guests at the Millennium were evacuated soon after the two planes crashed into the towers. The radio was found by hotel security staff some time later. They then informed the FBI.

FBI agent Christopher Bruno said in the court papers that Mr Higazy returned to the hotel on 17 December to retrieve his things. It was then that he and other FBI agents intervened and questioned him.

Agent Bruno said that when an agent showed the pilot radio to Mr Higazy, he "stated that the radio was not his; that he had never seen it before; that he did not know what it was; that he could not even guess what it was; and that it could not have been found in his room".

Mr Higazy was held by the FBI as a material witness to the terrorist attack. But the authorities later decided to charge him with perjury, accusing him of lying about the radio.

While he claimed to be ignorant about the radio, Mr Higazy told investigators that he had served in the Egyptian Air Corps and thus had some expertise in aviation communications.

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