German train bombs - a hoax?
Two Lebanese accomplices, who describe themselves as "scapegoats in a German theatre show performed as a favour to the Americans," are on trial on multiple attempted murder charges.
Dusseldorf -- Defence lawyers asked a German court on Wednesday to acquit a Lebanese student who planted a suitcase with a bomb mechanism inside it on a passenger train.
In brief, their case argued that Youssef al-Hajj Dib, 24, had left the device on a train as a hoax before fleeing the country on July 31, 2006. They said he had only wanted to spark fear when someone opened the suitcase.
Police had told the trial, which lasted all year, that the detonators of the two time bombs exploded, but the gas charges had been wrongly mixed and consequently failed to explode.
Another Lebanese has already been convicted in Beirut of planting the other bomb.
Prosecutors last month called for al-Hajj Dib to be jailed for life, saying the scare was Germany's closest ever came to an Islamist terrorist attack. Both men had been upset at the cartoons that had made fun of the Prophet Mohammed.
The defendant is to address the court on Tuesday next week and a verdict on the charge of multiple attempted murders is due from the court in Dusseldorf on Nov. 26.
Defence lawyer Bernd Rosenkranz said the accused could not be convicted if he had not intended to kill.
Al-Hajj Dib had helped build the bombs but the two defendants had changed their minds, realizing it was wrong to kill innocent civilians, and had deliberately loaded them with a gas mixture they knew could not explode.
The lawyer contended German federal police had exaggerated the case to back Berlin's view that Germany was in danger of attack from Islamist radicals.
He contended that the other plotter, Jihad Hamad, might have confessed as a result of a beating or threats.
He said it was implausible to claim that Hamad turned himself in and confessed of his own volition to attempted murder.
"Contritely admitting to something is not the Arab way," the lawyer said. "It could only have been forced."
Rosenkranz said the two young men would also have thoroughly cleaned away any evidence from the Cologne apartment where they built the bombs if they had truly intended to kill people.
But they left everything strewn about, including sales dockets for the gas canisters they had used.
"They just wanted to show the German public what they were capable of after the Mohammed cartoons were published in the German daily newspapers," Rosenkranz said.
Another defence lawyer said Hamad, the other conspirator, had retracted the confession that led to his 12 year jail term in Lebanon and agreed that the attack had been a hoax.
The lawyer, who met with Hamad in jail, quoted him as saying it was "obvious the bombs were not meant to explode."
Hamad claimed he was beaten in custody and a Lebanese prosecutor had personally threatened to have him tortured.
He had also been told his family would be summoned to see authorities if he told German investigators anything about being hit or threatened.
According to the lawyer, Hamad said he and al-Hajj Dib had been made "scapegoats in a German theatre show," which was "being performed as a favour to the Americans."
But a German federal prosecutor in court responded Wednesday that it was "an interview with an evidential value of just about zero."
The two men were filmed by closed circuit TV at Cologne station as they carried suitcases containing time bombs aboard trains going in opposite directions.
Lost property staff discovered the two unexploded bombs. Al-Hajj Dib was arrested when he returned to Germany, where he had been preparing for university studies in Kiel.