At final 9/11 hearing, Motassadeq to be sentenced

4th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

4 January 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - The first man ever convicted of a role in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks faces court for a fifth time Friday with a jail term of up to 15 years in prospect for Mounir al-Motassadeq, 32. Security will be tight at the courthouse in the northern German city of Hamburg where the Islamist was convicted in 2005 of terrorism and sentenced to seven years in jail. A further conviction on 246 counts of accessory to murder was added on appeal last year. After two full-scale t

4 January 2007

Hamburg (dpa) - The first man ever convicted of a role in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks faces court for a fifth time Friday with a jail term of up to 15 years in prospect for Mounir al-Motassadeq, 32.

Security will be tight at the courthouse in the northern German city of Hamburg where the Islamist was convicted in 2005 of terrorism and sentenced to seven years in jail. A further conviction on 246 counts of accessory to murder was added on appeal last year.

After two full-scale trials and two appeals, Motassadeq will this time only face an abbreviated trial on five hearing days stretching into February to determine a suitable punishment for assisting the killings of the hijack victims.

Ladislav Anisic, a lawyer representing the Moroccan, has forecast the trial will be quick.

"They'll be over and done with in three days," he said.

The Hamburg judges, who do not have the power to question the conviction, are expected to increase the seven-year term.

The long-running legal saga has turned on how much Motassadeq, a Moroccan studying electrical engineering in Germany, could have known about the plans of his friends, led by suicide pilot Mohammed Atta, who crashed one passenger jet into the World Trade Center.

The trial court ruled that Motassadeq was in the terrorist cell, and the appeal judges added that he must have known in advance that all the occupants of the four hijacked planes would be killed.

Only one other 9/11 accessory, Zacarias Moussaoui, also of Moroccan descent, has been tried. He received life imprisonment on May 4 last year from a US court.

Several other alleged 9/11 conspirators who were not among the 19 suicide attackers are still at large or in custody without trial.

Motassadeq's odyssey through the courts began with his October 2001 arrest as German police uncovered his association with Atta. He was given the maximum 15-year sentence in 2003 but at a retrial, which ended in August 2005, was convicted of terrorism only.

Much of the legal argument over his case was about whether he could have foreseen in conversations with Atta the extraordinary damage to be inflicted by the attacks, with two of the world's highest buildings collapsing and 3,000 people killed.

Later comments by terrorist leader Osama bin Laden suggested that even the terrorist kingpin did not realize that the fires caused by the crashed jets would melt the steel frames of the World Trade Center towers in New York.

Motassadeq, who is married with at least one child, has spent long periods free on bail in Hamburg, but was barred from resuming his studies. German authorities plan to expel him after his jail term.

Illustrating the difficulties German judges have had interpreting the evidence, Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, another associate of the Hamburg suicide pilots, was acquitted on similar evidence to that brought against Motassadeq and went home to Morocco.

Both Mzoudi and Motassadeq were extreme Islamists who had trained at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, then returned to Hamburg.

German authorities gave up trying to imprison other associates.

An inquiry against Mamoun Darkanzali, a Syrian-born Hamburg trader, was abandoned last year for lack of evidence, though he knew the suicide pilots and had business dealings with bin Laden's group.

Another Syrian-born man, Mohammad Haidar Sammar, allegedly recruited the Hamburg attackers to al-Qaeda. German police questioned but did not arrest him. He is now in Syrian custody awaiting trial.

Christian Ganczarski, a German who converted to Islam, is currently in French custody. German authorities said his close contacts to bin Laden were insufficient to lead to charges under German law.

Copyright DPA

Subject: German news

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