Friday, August 19, 2005

German Court Convicts Moroccan for 9/11 Links

HAMBURG, Aug. 19 - A Moroccan man today became the first person convicted in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States when a German court found him guilty of belonging to a terrorist organization and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

But the man, Mounir el-Motassadeq, 31, was found guilty only of belonging to Al Qaeda and associating with the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 attacks during the time before 2001 when they lived in this north German port city.

Mr. Motassadeq was acquitted on the more serious charge of complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks, with the presiding judge in the trial criticizing the United States for refusing to allow evidence into the trial that might have resulted in his conviction.

"This was a difficult case," the judge, Ernst-Rainer Schudt, said as he announced the verdict. "It didn't make it easier that the United States would not allow its intelligence services to give testimony here."

The court's decision today was the latest phase of a case that has dragged on for three years, through two long trials and an appeal, and may not yet be finished. A defense lawyer for Mr. Motassadeq, Udo Jacob, said that he would appeal today's verdict.

"My client is not a terrorist," he said. "It's important for him that the whole world knows that."

By contrast, the German prosecutor, Walter Hemberger, said, "We hope that this verdict will be a signal to all people who live here in Germany and have the same jihadist thinking as Motassadeq, and will show them that this is criminal in our country."

The verdict seemed to come as a surprise to Mr. Motassadeq, who entered court casually dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt, smiling and chatting with his lawyer and translator.

The only other man to be put on trial for complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks, Abdelgani Mzoudi, was acquitted last year, largely because of the refusal of the United States to make witnesses available, and it seemed likely that Mr. Motassadeq expected the same result.

He seemed momentarily shocked when Judge Schudt announced the verdict, but then listened impassively, his chin resting in his palm, as the judge read out the text of the decision.

Mr. Motassadeq, a Moroccan who has lived in Germany since the early 1990's, has acknowledged going to an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and knowing Mohamed Atta and the other men who led the plane hijackings of Sept. 11. Mr. Motassadeq also had a power of attorney over the bank account of one of the pilot hijackers, Marwan al-Shehhi, and transferring money from the account to that of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is believed to have been in overall command of the plot.

But Mr. Motassadeq has denied all along knowing of the plot or of intentionally providing it support.

Full story. (emphasis mine)

The U.S. wouldn't allow its intelligence services to testify? That seems a bit odd to me. I'm just wondering why? If there was evidence showing this man's connections were stronger than they currently appear, or if he was more involved, one would think that the U.S. would want these things taken into consideration.

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