US regrets acquittal of terror suspect
6 February 2004
HAMBURG/WASHINGTON – The United States said Thursday it regrets a German court’s acquittal of a suspected accomplice in the 11 September 2001 attacks.
A judge in Hamburg ruled there was not enough evidence showing Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, 31, played a role in the attacks on New York and Washington. Prosecutors have vowed to appeal the ruling.
“We regret the decision by a German court to acquit Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi,” said Steven Pike, a spokesman for the US State Department.
Mzoudi was suspected of aiding four of the 11 September hijackers while they were living in Hamburg. The cell was believed to have plotted the attack from the city.
The United States cooperated to the “greatest extent possible” in the case against the Moroccan student and would continue working with the Germans in the war on terrorism.
“We appreciate the efforts of German law enforcement officials to bring Mr. Mzoudi to justice,” Pike said.
Mzoudi was among a group of up to 40 radical young Moslems in Hamburg associated with Mohammed Atta, who was believed to be the cell’s ringleader and pilot of one of the planes that slammed into the World Trade Center.
Meanwhile, a German official said Friday there would be no move to deport Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, 31, back to Morocco until federal prosecutors had proceeded with their appeal against his acquittal on terrorism charges this week.
A Hamburg court said Thursday that Mzoudi had been one of up to 40 Islamist friends of September 11, 2001 suicide hijacker Mohammed Atta and had attended an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, but this did not prove he was part of the plot to attack New York and Washington.
Mzoudi has been free since December and his lawyer says he is trying to resume his electrotechnology studies at a Hamburg college.
Thomas Model, a spokesman for the state of Hamburg interior ministry which supervises his immigration status, said deportation proceedings “make no sense at the moment”. Expulsion was not something that could be arranged “overnight”.
The city’s interior minister, Dirk Nockemann, had said Thursday he would be happiest to expel Mzoudi instantly.
Both the prosecution and lawyers for American co-plaintiffs in the case say they will appeal the verdict to the German supreme court.
That court is currently considering an appeal from another Moroccan against conviction on identical charges.
Judges took care Thursday not to criticize February’s conviction of Mounir al-Motassadeq on identical facts, but the gulf between the two panels of judges who sat in the same Hamburg courtroom could hardly be greater.
Sven Leistikow, representing families of those killed, called the this week’s acquittal “a huge disappointment”.
German Interior Minister Otto Schily said, “It is naturally disappointing that a judgement goes in this direction.”
Subject: German news