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German court set free onlyman convicted for 9/11

Published on 07/04/2004

7 April 2004

HAMBURG – A German court Wednesday released a Moroccan man pending his retrial on charges of aiding the plane hijackers in the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States.

Mounir al-Motassadeq walked out of the central Hamburg prison complex and was whisked into a waiting car, refusing to answer questions from waiting journalists.

Motassadeq was jailed for 15 years in February last year, the only person so far to be convicted in connection with the 2001 attacks in the United States.

But the German Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe on 4 March ordered a new trial, saying essential evidence had not been properly addressed.

The court in Hamburg ruled Wednesday there was no longer an “urgent suspicion” Motassadeq was guilty on charges of being an accessory to murder.

Although an arrest warrant remained in force, the 30-year-old student could be released pending his retrial in Hamburg, probably in June, the court said.

Spokeswoman Sabine Westphalen said Motassadeq would have to continue living in Hamburg and report twice a week to police. His passport will be retained by authorities.

The court believes there is now “sufficient suspicion” rather than “urgent suspicion” in connection with the accessory to murder charge. “Urgent suspicion” remains on the charge of being a member of a terrorist organization, the spokeswoman said.

Motassedeq was convicted of being an accessory to more than 3,000 murders in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and of belonging to a terrorist group. He has now spent two years and four months in jail, including pre-trail detention.

However, the supreme court judges last month said evidence from a witness that might have helped the defence had not been heard.

This was a reference to Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni who has reportedly confessed to a central role in the plot.

Al-Shibh has been in US custody since his capture in Karachi, Pakistan in September 2002, but the US refused to release interrogation transcripts for the Hamburg trial.

However German investigators had supplied testimony believed to have come from al-Shibh which helped lead to the acquittal in February of a second Moroccan, Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, on identical charges.

Josef Graessle-Muenscher, one of the lawyers acting for Motassadeq, said the release indicated his client would eventually be cleared of the main charge or the new trial would collapse.

Motassadeq “has nothing to fear now”, he said. US authorities would have to realize what the consequences were of not making evidence available.

“The Americans will have to learn that this is not Guantanamo,” Graessle-Muenscher added in reference to the Cuban camp where the United States is holding hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects without trial.

A spokesman for Germany’s chief public prosecutor, Kay Nehm, said there were no plans to appeal against the court’s decision.

However, Motassadeq’s release was criticized by Germany’s Police Union which called it a setback in the fight against terrorism.

“The insufficient information policy of the American administration is the chief reason for this serious decision,” union chief Konrad Freiberg said in Berlin.

Hamburg state Interior Minister Udo Nagel said he would be pressing to have both Mzoudi and Motassadeq deported once the new trial was over.



Subject: German news