German high court to rule on 9/11 case
29 January 2004
KARLSRUHE – Germany’s Supreme Court (BGH) adjourned Thursday to consider its decision after several hours of argument on the world’s first conviction for the 11 September attacks.
The judges said they would convene again 4 March to announce their verdict on an appeal by Mounir al-Motassadeq, a Moroccan student in Hamburg who is a militant Islamist and trained in Afghanistan, but denies he knew in advance of the attacks in New York and Washington.
Lawyers for Motassadeq argued in Karlsruhe that the February 2003 conviction with a 15-year jail sentence was wrong in law, because evidence was never heard from the sole surviving plotter in western custody.
The BGH hearing comes a day before the Hamburg court was to hear the last witness in the second 11 September plot trial.
Another Moroccan student, Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, faces identical charges of being a member of a terrorist organization and assisting more than 3,000 murders. The maximum sentence possible is 15 years.
Gerhard Strate, a Hamburg lawyer representing Motassadeq, said Thursday the first Hamburg verdict had to be overturned because it was in breach of the principles of a fair trial.
Strate also argued that the European Convention on Human Rights barred the German conviction.
The testimony of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni captured in Karachi on 11 September 2002, had not been made available to the Hamburg court, said Strate. Bin al-Shibh was a friend of three suicide pilots led by an Egyptian, Mohammed Atta.
A US court in Virginia has imposed sanctions on the US government for not allowing bin al-Shibh testimony in a similar trial, while another Hamburg court is expected to acquit Mzoudi after hearing second hand that bin al-Shibh had denied the Moroccans were in the plot.
The appeal court in Karlsruhe can only consider issues of law, not fact, so it cannot review newer evidence in Motassadeq’s favour. Defence lawyers would have to apply for the original trial court to reconvene if they wished to offer new evidence.
Subject: German news