3 November 2004
HAMBURG - A Syrian-born, Hamburg-based businessman who is in custody awaiting extradition to Spain refused Wednesday to testify to the Hamburg 9/11 trial on the grounds that he might incriminate himself.
Mamoun Darkazanli, 46, who is alleged to have been a business partner to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, had been called to describe his links with Mounir al-Motassadeq, the Moroccan accused of plotting the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
He gave Motassadeq a cheery smile and a nod as he entered the courtroom and took his place in the stand, giving his name and confirming in fluent German that he had been arrested on suspicion of being a member of a terrorist organization.
He said that in view of this, he was exercising his legal right to withhold testimony that might be used against him elsewhere.
Spain suspects he helped the Madrid bombers who killed 190 people and wounded more than 1,800 on 11 March.
A long-running German inquiry, described in court papers Wednesday, has uncovered a web of financial dealings with bin Laden's Sudanese companies since 1993 but has failed to yield an indictment. Darkazanli was arrested last month at Spain's request.
The state superior court, hearing charges of terrorism and assistance in 3,000 murders against Motassadeq, continued Wednesday its efforts to prove or disprove an allegation that the Hamburg hijackers met in 2001 for a valedictory dinner in a Tex-Mex bar.
A former waitress, 41, said she remembered seeing Mohammed Atta, described last week by Qaeda chief bin Laden as his "commander general", in the bar on the edge of Hamburg's red-light district.
She said Atta's stocky head shape was memorable, but she had not seen Motassadeq or any of 70 other suspects shown in police photos, and she withdrew an earlier claim to police that she recalled one or two women being with the group.
The story of the alleged farewell party for the hijackers, either around 1 January or 1 May 2001, was told in court last month by Roger Luetz, 42, proprietor of a cafe that has since gone out of business.
Luetz asserted he had called police after the guests spoke openly of hijacking planes, but a patrol only arrived 10 minutes after they left. Judges said Wednesday they had noticed that Luetz tended to embroider stories.
The superintendent of the nearby police station testified Wednesday that there was no record of such a call in early January. He said operational records were nearly complete, and his officers were required to make written notes on every job.
The court asked him to report back later with records for early May, when the waitress said she might have seen Atta.
Motassadeq, who was sentenced in 2003 to 15 years in jail, is being re-tried after his conviction was overturned on appeal. Prosecutors are trying to prove that he must have known that his close friend Atta was contemplating the suicide attack.
Subject: German news
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