US rejects sending witnessesto 9/11 Hamburg trial

10th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

10 August 2004 , HAMBURG – Washington has rejected a request to allow its al-Qaeda suspects to testify at the Hamburg retrial of Mounir El Motassadeq who is the only person ever to have been convicted in connection with the 11 September terrorist attacks.

10 August 2004

HAMBURG – Washington has rejected a request to allow its al-Qaeda suspects to testify at the Hamburg retrial of Mounir El Motassadeq who is the only person ever to have been convicted in connection with the 11 September terrorist attacks.

The dramatic decision was announced Tuesday at Moroccan-born El Motassadek appeared in court with Hamburg State Court Judge Ernst-Rainer Schudt saying federal prosecutors had received written notification of the US State Department's move only minutes before proceedings began.

In particular, the State Department stopped short of making two key suspects available to the court for testimony - a key demand of both the prosecution and the defence.

Instead, it will provide transcripts of interrogation records and other CIA documents.

El Motassadeq, an admitted friend of the Hamburg terrorists who commandeered airliners on that fateful September morning, faces charges of complicity in the deaths of the more than 3,000 victims of the 11 September attacks.

Chief defence attorney Josef Graessle-Muenscher filed a request for all charges to be dismissed on the basis of lack of evidence, insisting that the prosecution will not be able to produce any evidence proving his client was an accessory to the plot or a member of the Hamburg terrorist cell.

As for the interrogation records, "They most likely are the result of torture," Graessle-Muenscher said.

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

Even with the records, Graessle-Muenscher says the prosecution's case is weak.

"Everyone knows any and all information was obtained by torture," he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "We cannot believe that such evidence would stand up in a German court of law."

El Motassadeq, 30, was convicted in early 2003 by Hamburg State Court for having aided the 11 September attacks and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He is so far the only terror suspect to have been convicted in connection with the terror attacks.

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

Meanwhile, the same Hamburg court that had convicted Motassadeq acquitted a friend and co-suspect of his last February, Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, who 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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