German prosecution of Motassadeq nears end

17th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

17 November 2006, Karlsruhe, Germany (dpa) - Klaus Tolksdorf is a German high court judge who cuts through the tangle to find the simple truths. That was rarely more difficult for a judge to do than in the case of Mounir al-Motassadeq, a friend of several of the September 11, 2001 conspirators, whose long march through the courts looks set to end soon with a long prison sentence. Tolkdorf, who headed an appeal panel that reinforced Motassadeq's convictions on Thursday, stresses the intent of the law rather

17 November 2006

Karlsruhe, Germany (dpa) - Klaus Tolksdorf is a German high court judge who cuts through the tangle to find the simple truths.

That was rarely more difficult for a judge to do than in the case of Mounir al-Motassadeq, a friend of several of the September 11, 2001 conspirators, whose long march through the courts looks set to end soon with a long prison sentence.

Tolkdorf, who headed an appeal panel that reinforced Motassadeq's convictions on Thursday, stresses the intent of the law rather than it complexities. But even he found it difficult to explain the muddle that German courts have got themselves into with 9/11.

Consider this: two years ago, the high court quashed Motassadeq's conviction for being an accessory to murder. A trial court then partially acquitted the Moroccan. And now the high court overrules the trial judges and reinstates that conviction.

The media says it makes the law an ass, although legal scholars say Tolksdorf, a highly experienced trial judge, has got it right.

The first trial, call it "Motassadeq I" for short, produced a 15- year jail term for membership in a terrorist group and being an accessory to murder.

That was struck down because there had been a gap in the review of the evidence, mainly because the United States had refused to pass on testimony from Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a detained plotter.

So the Hamburg court conducted a second trial, which took twice as long, including summaries of testimony from al-Qaeda prisoners in US custody, and issued the "Motassadeq II" verdict: seven years for terrorism, acquittal for accessory to murder.

This time, the appeal court thought the review of evidence had been perfect but the legal interpretation of it was plain wrong. Tolksdorf said the finding that Motassadeq knew planes would be hijacked and crashed automatically made him an accessory to murder.

The high court was obviously concerned Thursday to put an end to this legal marathon, five years after Motassadeq's arrest in Hamburg.

So instead of ordering a third trial, the high court used special powers to itself convict Motassadeq of being an accessory to murder.

With the conviction now reverted to the "Motassadeq I" state, the outcome at the upcoming "Motassadeq III" sentencing trial in Hamburg will probably be 15 years, or not far short of it, and the legal odyssey will be over at last.

The German justices can hardly claim to have done a perfect job, since the legal rulings in the Motassadeq case would just as well have applied to another suspected terrorist, Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi.

The latter Moroccan was another in the circle of Hamburg Islamists led by suicide pilot Mohammed Atta. Like Motassadeq, he performed little services to cover the plotters and kept their secret quiet.

The high court said Thursday that the circle comprised eight men including Motassadeq and Mzoudi, all of whom knew that four of the group "intended to fly planes and conduct suicide attacks."

Mzoudi, 33, can no longer be convicted and punished. A Hamburg trial court acquitted him in February 2004 and the high court confirmed this finding on appeal last year. Mzoudi flew home to Morocco.

As Tolksdorf said himself while hearing the case on October 12, "This outcome certainly cannot be called satisfactory."

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article