Court: Sept. 11th conspirator let off too lightly

16th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

16 November 2006, Karlsruhe, Germany (dpa) - Germany's High Court scolded judges Thursday for letting off Mounir al-Motassadeq too lightly for conspiring in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Appeal judges ordered a limited new trial, where the evidence from the previous trial will stand and only the penalty must be decided. Last year the Moroccan student was sent to jail for seven years for being a member of the Hamburg terrorist cell led by Mohammed Atta and two other suicide

16 November 2006

Karlsruhe, Germany (dpa) - Germany's High Court scolded judges Thursday for letting off Mounir al-Motassadeq too lightly for conspiring in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Appeal judges ordered a limited new trial, where the evidence from the previous trial will stand and only the penalty must be decided.

Last year the Moroccan student was sent to jail for seven years for being a member of the Hamburg terrorist cell led by Mohammed Atta and two other suicide pilots. But he was acquitted at trial of being an accessory to 3,000 murders of plane and building occupants.

Appeal judges rebuked the court for that partial acquittal, although the court had been convinced that Motassadeq, 32, at least premeditated the killings of the 246 occupants of the four jets that were hijacked and crashed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

They quashed the partial acquittal and imposed a conviction for being an accessory to 246 murders. The High Court said judges in Hamburg, Germany must now reconsider the penalty for this expanded conviction.

Presiding Justice Klaus Tolksdorf said: "At the new hearing, the conviction cannot be questioned." Only the penalty was at stake.

The future hearing will be Motassadeq's fifth encounter with the courts in five years, after two trials and two appeals.

Motassadeq has been free on bail since February. A prosecutor, Gerhard Altvater, said a move was expected soon to bring him back into custody. Lawyers representing Motassadeq said they might appeal to Germany's Federal Constitutional Court over the ruling.

Prosecutors welcomed Thursday's ruling. Andreas Schulz, a German representing American families bereaved in the attacks, predicted Motassadeq's term would be increased close to the maximum of 15 years for those crimes under German law.

There had been concern that the entire Motassadeq case would have be to reheard. Sabine Westphalen, a spokeswoman for the Hamburg courts, said the sentencing hearing would be conducted as quickly as possible and would probably only require a few days of court time.

The Moroccan, 32, is only the second person ever to be convicted in connection with the attacks. Only one other 9/11 helper, Zacarias Moussaoui, who is also of Moroccan descent, has been tried. He received life imprisonment on May 4 from a US court.

German courts have differed widely in their views about the September 11 plot. At his first trial in Hamburg, Motassadeq received the maximum 15-year sentence but this was quashed on a technicality.

In August 2005 he was convicted at a second trial of membership in the Hamburg terrorist cell, but not of being an accessory to murders. Judges said he clearly knew what his close friends were plotting though he did not physically participate in the attacks.

"He took over organizational tasks that made it easier to commit the attacks," said Tolksdorf.

Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, another associate of the suicide pilots, was acquitted on similar evidence and went home to Morocco. Both Mzoudi and Motassadeq had trained at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, then returned to their university studies in Hamburg.

DPA

Subject: German news

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