9/11 retrial opens: suspectwithholds testimony

10th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

10 August 2004, HAMBURG - Retrial proceedings opened before a German court Tuesday against the only man ever to have been convicted in connection with the 11 September attacks. Mounir El Motassadeq, an admitted friend of the Hamburg terrorists who commandeered airliners on that fateful September morning, arrived at the Hamburg State Court chambers without making a statement. He ignored reporters' questions as he was whisked inside the court house. He issued a statement through his attorneys saying he would

10 August 2004

HAMBURG - Retrial proceedings opened before a German court Tuesday against the only man ever to have been convicted in connection with the 11 September attacks.

Mounir El Motassadeq, an admitted friend of the Hamburg terrorists who commandeered airliners on that fateful September morning, arrived at the Hamburg State Court chambers without making a statement.

He ignored reporters' questions as he was whisked inside the court house.

He issued a statement through his attorneys saying he would say nothing before the court when it took up charges of being an accomplice to the more than 3,000 deaths in the attacks.

Chief defence attorney Josef Graessle-Muenscher, in issuing the statement, said the new tactic reflects a feeling by the defence that the proceedings are based on flimsy evidence.

"We intend to file a request for all charges to be dismissed on the basis of lack of evidence," Graessle-Muenscher said.

His remarks came after Germany's top federal prosecutor conceded he has failed to persuade the US State Department to hand over evidence that Germany's high court, which ordered the retrial, has stated is crucial for conviction.

Chief Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm has acknowledged travelling to the United States in April seeking release of interrogation records of detained terror suspects Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

"I met with a great deal of understanding," Nehm said. "But they gave me to understand that there were restrictions which went way beyond the authority of the people I was talking to."

He added that a 17-page document with questions German officials want put to Binalshibh had been sent to the United States this month.

Nehm said that, even without the State Department records, he was confident of winning a conviction in the upcoming retrial of Mounir Motassadeq.

But without Binalshibh's interrogation records, Motassadeq's defence attorney Graessle-Muenscher says he will file a request with the court for dropping all charges against his client.

Even with the records, Graessle-Muenscher says the prosecution's case is week.

"Everyone knows any and all information was obtained by torture," he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "We cannot believe that such evidence would stand up in a German court of law."

Motassadeq, 30, was convicted in early 2003 by Hamburg State Court for having aided the September 11 attacks and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He is so far the only terror suspect to have been convicted in connection with the terror attacks.

But last March, Germany's Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe quashed the conviction on a technicality, saying essential evidence had been withheld by the State Department. A new trial was ordered.

Meanwhile, the same Hamburg court that had convicted Motassadeq acquitted a friend and co-suspect of his last February, Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, who had been tried on identical charges. The court cited the Supreme Court ruling in handing down the acquittal.

Mzoudi's acquittal is now being appealed by the Federal Prosecutor's Office.

Both men were student friends of the suicide pilots in Hamburg, and evidence presented in court showed that they had been at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, but their lawyers argued that this did not prove that they knew about the 11 September plot.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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