This month, Abdallah Higazy managed to crawl from the landslide of forgotten history on a slow-motion journey toward the truth.
Mr. Higazy, now 36, was briefly — and wrongly — known as a mysterious figure who fled a hotel room directly across Church Street from the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, leaving behind a Koran, an Egyptian passport and an aviation radio that might have allowed him to communicate with the hijacked airliners that flew into the towers. A security guard reported the discovery of these items.
After first adamantly denying any knowledge of the aviation radio, and then sitting in solitary confinement for 10 days, Mr. Higazy finally conceded. It was his radio, he confessed. He was charged with making false statements.
One month after Mr. Higazy was locked up, the story took a sharp turn.
An airline pilot walked into the hotel asking for the very same radio, saying that he had left it behind in his room on the morning of Sept. 11. The pilot, a United States citizen from the Midwest, knew nothing about Mr. Higazy. On further inquiry, the hotel security guard then admitted that he had lied about where he had found the radio. He later pleaded guilty to making false statements to the F.B.I.
And so it was discovered that Mr. Higazy, an engineering student at Brooklyn Polytech who was being put up at the hotel by the federal agency that was sponsoring him, had confessed to something he had not done, and to a crime that had not taken place.
Only now are some answers emerging from a civil rights lawsuit brought by Mr. Higazy that has been grinding through the federal courts. In a decision released two weeks ago that allows Mr. Higazy’s lawsuit to proceed, an appeals court said that if his claims are all true, then a jury could conclude that his confession was obtained by the force of threats. (MORE)