Lawyers seek to halt Hamburg terrorism trial

5th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

5 January 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - Defence lawyers cited technicalities Friday as they called for a halt to a new sentencing hearing in Germany on Mounir al-Motassadeq, who was convicted last year of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks.

5 January 2007

Hamburg (dpa) - Defence lawyers cited technicalities Friday as they called for a halt to a new sentencing hearing in Germany on Mounir al-Motassadeq, who was convicted last year of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The 32-year-old Moroccan student, who had grown his beard longer while in a remand jail, stared impassively as his two German lawyers challenged the authority of the Hamburg court which is expected to increase his current 7-year term to as much as 15 years.

A graduate of a Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, Motassadeq did not join the 19 suicide hijackers who crashed jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, but judges have ruled in August 2005 that he knew of his fellow Islamists' plan.

After two trials and two appeals, the Hamburg state superior court has been instructed this time not to query the conviction, but only to consider the sentence. Because two other selections of Hamburg judges have already have tried Motassadeq, a new panel was chosen.

The main legal counsel for Motassadeq accused judges of the state superior court of 'arbitrarily' selecting a panel of three from among themselves to try the case, which has been set down for five hearing days lasting into February.

Lawyer Ladislav Anisic charged that it was thus an 'extraordinary court' and banned under the German constitution.

The Moroccan's other lawyer, Udo F Jacob, has filed a long-shot appeal to Germany's constitutional court, which does not normally try crime appeals, alleging a miscarriage of justice. He demanded Friday that the Hamburg court await the outcome.

Federal prosecutor Walter Hemberger opposed the challenge, saying, 'I'm certain the constitutional appeal has no chance of success.' He added that all three Hamburg judges were qualified to try Motassadeq.

Presiding judge Carsten Beckmann said the trial would proceed while the challenges were considered separately. A ruling on Jacob's motion would probably be available at the next sitting on Monday.

So far Motassadeq stands convicted of membership in a terrorist cell and being an accessory to the murders of 246 occupants of the four airliners who were killed in the 2001 crashes.

Motassadeq had been learning electrical science in Germany when he became friends with Mohammed Atta and other suicide pilots in 1999. Judges said it could not be proven that Motassadeq knew that people in the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon would also die.

DPA

Subject: German news

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