9-11 terror suspect Mzoudiacquitted by high court
9 June 2005, KARLSRUHE - Germany's high court confirmed on Thursday the acquittal of Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, 32, who had been accused of assisting the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
9 June 2005
KARLSRUHE - Germany's high court confirmed on Thursday the acquittal of Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, 32, who had been accused of assisting the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Prosecutors had appealed against the February 2004 not-guilty verdict on the Moroccan student, who was a close friend of three of the suicide pilots while they were at university in the German port city of Hamburg.
But the chairman of the appeals bench, Klaus Tolksdorf, said the federal high court in Karlsruhe had not managed to be convinced by the prosecutor's arguments for a retrial. He said no legal errors were visible in the trial court's summary of the evidence.
As no further appeal is possible, the ruling brings closure to the case. Mzoudi's lawyer, Gul Pinar, said he planned to move voluntarily back to Morocco "as soon as he can". She added that he anticipated further interrogation there. He has been free since December 2003.
Senior officials in Hamburg said Mzoudi must leave the country within 14 more days. Udo Nagel, the Hamburg minister of the interior, said: "Even if it was not proved in a criminal trial, we regard Mzoudi as a supporter of a terrorist group."
The prosecutors who accused him of membership in a terror group and being an accessory to some 3,000 murders voiced frustration at the ruling. "It's hard to accept," said prosecutor Gerhard Altvater.
But German interior minister Otto Schily said he accepted that someone could only be punished if guilt had been proven. The fight against terrorism had to be conducted "within the scope of the law".
Mzoudi made no secret of his militant Islamist views, allegedly trained in an Afghan al-Qaeda camp and paid bills for an absent plotter. But the trial court had said there was no proof the bearded electronics student knew about the plot to hijack and crash planes.
The high court, which is Germany's supreme court on matters not involving the constitution, reached agreement on Thursday. The appellate court can only review the legal aspects of a lower-court verdict, not the evidence. It heard both sides for one day only, on 12 May.
Tolksdorf said, "The court realises this decision cannot expect to meet with general approval." The 9-11 attacks had been an attack on western values, but the court could not abandon its criteria because of that.
"The prevailing trial law makes no exceptions for terrorism suspects," he said.
The Mzoudi case was one of three criminal trials involving the 9-11 plot.
Udo Jacob, a lawyer for another of the former student circle, Mounir al-Motassadeq, who is currently on trial on similar charges for a second time in Hamburg, said the ruling made his acquittal more likely. A verdict is expected in August.
The trial in the United States of suspect Zacarias Moussaoui is continuing. Al-Qaeda captives elsewhere have not been charged.
Subject: German news