PHOENIX – A Saudi man was convicted Thursday of lying to the FBI when he denied knowing one of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Faisal Al Salmi repeatedly denied knowing Hani Hanjour, one of the terrorists aboard the plane that hit the Pentagon, during a series of interviews on Sept. 18 and Sept. 19, prosecutors said.
Al Salmi, 34, was the first person convicted on charges connecting him to the hijackers. He was not charged with terrorism.
Al Salmi, who came to the United States from Saudi Arabia on a student visa in 1997, could receive up to six months behind bars when he is sentenced on April 29. Al Salmi has been in custody since Sept. 21.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said after Al Salmi's indictment was unsealed in October that the government "will bring the full weight of the law upon those who attempt to impede or hinder" the terrorism investigation.
Prosecutors said Al Salmi and Hanjour were registered at the same time to use a flight simulator that was open to the public at a Phoenix flight school.
Several FBI agents testified during Al Salmi's trial that he had changed his story during the interviews, eventually acknowledging he had met Hanjour on different occasions in the past several years.
During closing arguments Thursday, Sexton said Al Salmi was even deceptive when he eventually acknowledged meeting Hanjour.
Al Salmi told authorities he met Hanjour twice at a Phoenix area mosque. But the two were also seen together at a store in suburban Scottsdale last summer.
"He clearly has a friendship that goes beyond the two times he said he met him at the mosque," Sexton told the jury.
Al Salmi's attorney, Gerald Williams, didn't deny his client and Hanjour had met, but told jurors there was a difference between meeting people and knowing them.
"They are trying to get Mr. Al Salmi to admit he was connected to Hani Hanjour but he wasn't and he's not going to admit it no matter how hard they try," Williams said.