28 November 2003
HAMBURG – A German prosecutor is seeking permission to reveal top-secret intelligence documents to a Hamburg court that is trying a man accused of involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks.
To the surprise of judges, federal prosecutor Walter Hemberger asked for extra trial time while he waits for permission from officials who answer direct to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin.
Till Hemberger spoke, the trial was thought to be all but through, with a verdict likely in mid-December.
Hemberger said he had been advised it would take another two weeks to decide if the documents could be released.
Defendant Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi is accused of assisting in more than 3,000 murders and of being a member of a terrorist organization. At the start of the trial, Hemberger contended he was one of eight Arab students living in Hamburg who devised the attacks.
Presiding judge Klaus Ruehle called the request for a delay surprising, but agreed to closing arguments being put off till the second week of December.
Five US relatives of those killed in the attacks are to address the court on 4 December describing their loss. The first man convicted of a role in the attacks, Mounir al-Motassadeq, is to take the witness stand on 5 December. He is serving a 15-year sentence.
Hemberger did not explain whether the dossier he wants to disclose is the transcription of US interrogations of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, suspected of being the chief plotter. Berlin authorities have received extracts from that file.
Earlier the court was told the notes had to remain secret in deference to US stipulations, but the news magazine Der Spiegel then published a long story apparently based on a leaked copy of the file.
US justice officials have rebuffed a direct request by the court for an interview with bin al-Shibh himself. The United States has never disclosed where it is holding him. Ruehle once commented that the absence of the key witness was awkward for the case.
Subject: German news