EXCLUSIVE: HE'S AN INDICTED FUGITIVE. BUT IS HE A TERRORIST?

Unemployed and financially strained, Chris Hajaig lives in suburban Essex, England. He says he spends his days reading the paper and being a stay-at-home dad. He missed a PTA meeting last week, not because he was too busy--he just didn't want to face the other parents. That's because Zayead Christopher Hajaig is an indicted fugitive wanted by the FBI.

Scotland Yard's been keeping close tabs on Hajaig, interviewing him in person and, he believes, surveilling his movements. Nonetheless, over the last two weeks he has slipped out to the local Internet cafe to exchange e-mails with NEWSWEEK. Melancholy and regretful, defensive and angry, he laid out his version of what it's like to get ensnared in the antiterror dragnet.

Hajaig's name first surfaced on April 7, when an Atlanta Joint Terrorism Task Force bulletin leaked to the press. The bulletin said Hajaig, a 35-year-old Briton born in Nigeria, became aggressive after being denied the chance to upgrade his pilot rating while taking flight lessons in Georgia, his home at the time. To add to the suspicions, he was an illegal alien who trained at the same airport where 9/11 terrorists Muhammad Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi once rented a plane. Hajaig says that's all "bollocks" and that a "disgruntled friend" put the finger on him after a falling-out. The Feds admit they have no evidence of a "link to terrorism." But in the war on terror, law-enforcement officials don't take chances. Investigators believe he fled the United States when he learned authorities wanted to talk. Hajaig admits that he "caught wind from the flight school that the FBI would like to ask questions." Instead, he skipped out for England, he says, to avoid deportation. He claims an FBI agent was furious and later called him a "terrorist" by phone.

Hajaig says he fell apart when he learned he was the subject of an international no-fly alert: "I saw my pics all over creation. I ran to the closest police station and gave myself up." He walked in and declared "I am this man." After questioning, British cops told him to go home because there were no charges pending. Last Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Atlanta indicted him on three gun charges. Investigators also found one of what they allege is Hajaig's guns at the bottom of the Chattahoochee River. Hajaig said: "I left in a hurry and I did not want the guns getting in the wrong hands."

For now, Hajaig remains free. A Homeland Security source said the United States has no plans to extradite him at this time. There is also no indication the British plan to file charges. Hajaig is uncomfortable under the microscope. Still a "person of interest" and not given the all-clear he had hoped for, he must now live with what he calls the "shame never ending."