Lawyers predict acquittal for 9/11 suspect

11th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

11 August 2004 , HAMBURG - Lawyers for 11 September terror suspect Mounir El Motassadeq said Wednesday they expect an acquittal for their client in the wake of evidence provided by the US Justice Department asserting that he was not a member of the cell which planned the attacks. "I believe this is heading towards an acquittal," said Josef Graessler-Muenscher, the chief defence attorney for Motassadeq at the Hamburg Superior Court, where a re-trial of Motassedeq got started on Tuesday. Chief presiding judg

11 August 2004

HAMBURG - Lawyers for 11 September terror suspect Mounir El Motassadeq said Wednesday they expect an acquittal for their client in the wake of evidence provided by the US Justice Department asserting that he was not a member of the cell which planned the attacks.

"I believe this is heading towards an acquittal," said Josef Graessler-Muenscher, the chief defence attorney for Motassadeq at the Hamburg Superior Court, where a re-trial of Motassedeq got started on Tuesday.

Chief presiding judge Ernst-Rainer Schudt made a brief comment indicating the impact it would have on the proceedings.

"We'll have to consider what can be drawn from this," he said about the US Justice Department's evidence consisting of faxed excerpts from interrogation transcripts of detained 11 September terror suspects Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

According to the excerpts, the two men told interrogators that Motassadeq was not a member of the Hamburg cell and that he had no knowledge of the plot to commandeer jetliners and fly them into buildings, according to the evidence placed before the Hamburg court.

The stunning revelations came on the second day of Motassadeq's retrial on charges of being an accessory to the deaths of the more than 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Motassadeq is the only man ever convicted in connection with the terror attacks. The Hamburg court sentenced him to 15 years in prison in early 2003 for being an accomplice in the murder of 3,066 persons in the September 11 attacks.

But in March 2004, Germany's Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe quashed the conviction on a technicality and ordered a new trial, saying essential evidence had been withheld by the US State Department.

On Tuesday, Hamburg State Court Judge Ernst-Rainer Schudt said federal prosecutors had received written notification of the US decision to provide evidence only minutes before proceedings began.

But the Justice Department stopped short of making Binalshibh and Mohammed available to the court for testimony - a key demand of both the prosecution and the defence. Instead, it provided edited transcripts of interrogation records and other CIA documents.

Germany's top federal prosecutor had worked for months to persuade the U.S. to hand over evidence that Germany's high court, which ordered the retrial, has stated is crucial for conviction.

Chief Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm travelled to the United States in April seeking the release of interrogation records of detained terror suspects Binalshibh and Mohammed.

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

The same Hamburg court that had convicted Motassadeq acquitted a friend and co-suspect Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, in February 2003. Mzoudi 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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