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Mounir el-Motassadeq Convicted of Belonging to Al Qaeda
Posted by: 277fia (IP Logged)
Date: August 20, 2005 12:04AM

A major weakness of the 9/11 Report is that the commission was not permitted to interview Khalid Sheik Mohammed's interrogators, let alone Mohammed. In the Motassedeq trial, lack of US cooperation severely hindered the prosecution's case.

"Mr. Motassadeq was acquitted of a more serious charge, of complicity in the attacks, with the presiding judge in the trial criticizing the United States for refusing to release information that the court regarded as central to the case and necessary for a conviction on the complicity charge...."

"The only other person to be tried outside of the United States for complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks, Abdelgani Mzoudi, was acquitted in Hamburg last year after the American government refused to make witnesses available, and it seemed as though Mr. Motassadeq had expected the same result..."

"The United States government does not officially acknowledge it has custody of suspects like Mr. bin al-Shibh and Mr. Mohammed, although it is widely known that it does. The government has never agreed to make them available for any reason in any legal case, not even in the federal prosecution of Mr. Moussaoui. The 9/11 commission was allowed to review portions of reports based on interrogations of the detainees, but even then the commission had no direct access to any of them."

"Mr. Motassadeq's lawyers had argued that whatever the Qaeda detainees told interrogators, they might have made the statements under torture, and so the statements would have been inadmissible in a German court."

"Judge Schudt said on Friday, "When we asked the Americans under what circumstances the questioning of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh took place, the answer was 'no comment.' "

The judge also referred to Matthew Walsh, an F.B.I. agent who came to Hamburg to testify in the Motassadeq trial, but who, Judge Schudt said, answered most questions with the phrases "not available" or "not authorized to answer such questions."...

Here's the entire story:

New York Times
By RICHARD BERNSTEIN
August 20, 2005

German Court Convicts Man of Qaeda Ties

HAMBURG, Germany, Aug. 19 - A Moroccan man brought to trial in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks was convicted Friday, when a German court found him guilty of belonging to a terrorist organization and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

But the man, Mounir el-Motassadeq, 31, was found guilty only of belonging to Al Qaeda, specifically to a cell in Hamburg, whose other members included ringleaders in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Motassadeq was acquitted of a more serious charge, of complicity in the attacks, with the presiding judge in the trial criticizing the United States for refusing to release information that the court regarded as central to the case and necessary for a conviction on the complicity charge.

"This was a difficult case," the judge, Ernst-Rainer Schudt, said as he announced the verdict. "It didn't make it easier that the United States would not allow its intelligence services to give testimony here."

Mr. Motassadeq was among the first to be charged in connection with the attacks and is also among the first to be convicted, albeit for a different crime. In April, Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty to participating in a Qaeda conspiracy to fly planes into American buildings, but he said the plan was to fly a plane into the White House, unrelated to the Sept. 11 plot.

Mr. Motassadeq's conviction and sentencing on Friday were the latest developments in a case that has dragged on for three years, through two long trials and one appeal. A lawyer for Mr. Motassadeq, Udo Jacob, said Friday he would appeal the new verdict.

"My client is not a terrorist," he said. "It's important for him that the whole world knows that."

By contrast, the German prosecutor, Walter Hemberger, said, "We hope that this verdict will be a signal to all people who live here in Germany and have the same jihadist thinking as Motassadeq, and will show them that this is criminal in our country."

The verdict seemed to surprise Mr. Motassadeq, who entered court dressed casually in jeans and a plaid shirt, smiling and chatting with his lawyer and interpreter.

The only other person to be tried outside of the United States for complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks, Abdelgani Mzoudi, was acquitted in Hamburg last year after the American government refused to make witnesses available, and it seemed as though Mr. Motassadeq had expected the same result.

He appeared momentarily shocked when Judge Schudt announced the verdict, but then listened impassively, his chin resting in his palm, as the judge read the text of the decision aloud.

Mr. Motassadeq, a Moroccan who has lived in Germany since the early 1990's, has acknowledged going to a Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and knowing Mohamed Atta and the other men who led the plane hijackings on Sept. 11.

Mr. Motassadeq also had power of attorney over a bank account of one of the hijackers, Marwan al-Shehhi, and transferred money from the account to one of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is believed to have been an organizer of the plot along with its architect, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Both are in American custody.

All along, Mr. Motassadeq has denied knowing of the plot and of intentionally providing it with support.

In his first trial, in 2003, he was convicted and sentenced to the maximum term, 15 years in prison, for 3,000 counts of accessory to murder, but the conviction was overturned on appeal several months later and a new trial was ordered. The appeals court cited the United States' refusal to allow testimony by central figures in the Sept. 11 attacks who were in American custody. They had told American interrogators that Mr. Motassadeq, while associating with members of a Qaeda cell in Hamburg, had no advance knowledge of the attacks.

This information was provided to the court in a letter from the German authorities, who had been given summaries of the interrogations by American intelligence services.

During the yearlong second trial, which ended Friday, the United States provided some additional information from the interrogations but apparently not enough to lead the seven judges in the case to find Mr. Motassadeq guilty of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The point is we would have liked to have questioned them ourselves," Judge Schudt said in court, referring specifically to Mr. bin al-Shibh and Mr. Mohammed.

"If they had been here, probably they would have availed themselves of their right not to testify, but at least it would have been helpful to have them here," the judge said. He added that summaries of their statements provided to the court did not constitute "sufficient proof in either direction," and that there was no way for the court to check their veracity.

The United States government does not officially acknowledge it has custody of suspects like Mr. bin al-Shibh and Mr. Mohammed, although it is widely known that it does. The government has never agreed to make them available for any reason in any legal case, not even in the federal prosecution of Mr. Moussaoui. The 9/11 commission was allowed to review portions of reports based on interrogations of the detainees, but even then the commission had no direct access to any of them.

Mr. Motassadeq's lawyers had argued that whatever the Qaeda detainees told interrogators, they might have made the statements under torture, and so the statements would have been inadmissible in a German court.

Judge Schudt said on Friday, "When we asked the Americans under what circumstances the questioning of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh took place, the answer was 'no comment.' "

The judge also referred to Matthew Walsh, an F.B.I. agent who came to Hamburg to testify in the Motassadeq trial, but who, Judge Schudt said, answered most questions with the phrases "not available" or "not authorized to answer such questions."

While the court rejected the prosecution's claim that Mr. Motassadeq was a knowing member of the Sept. 11 conspiracy, Judge Schudt said there was little doubt that he was a member of Al Qaeda and shared its goal of carrying out jihad against Americans and Jews.

"Nine-eleven was carried out by fanatics, and you, Mr. Motassadeq, had the same way of thinking as these men," the judge said. "It is not important what exactly you did in Afghanistan, but what is important is that you were there in a training camp of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan."

Souad Mekhennet contributed reporting from Hamburg for this article, and David Johnston from Washington.







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