Moroccan gets seven years in German 9/11 retrial

Friday, August 19, 2005

Location of Hamburg in Germany

Mounir el-Motassadeq, a Moroccan who was a friend of several 9/11 hijackers, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for membership in a terrorist organisation by a court in Hamburg. The court, however, said that there is no proof that Motassadeq knew about the 9/11 plans or participated in them.

Presiding judge Ernst-Rainer Schudt said that Motassadeq has played an important role in running the financial affairs of other cell members and covered their absence while they were in terror training camps. But he said that Motassadey wasn't "the same caliber as [Mohammed] Atta", the leader of the 9/11 hijackers. Schudt also complained that the lack of cooperation by U.S. authorities in providing witnesses and delievering evidence left the court in "an unsatisfactory situation". U.S. authorities denied the court access to key witnesses in their custody such as Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and out of security concerns only provided written testimonies, which have very limited legal standing under German law.

Relatives of 9/11 victims who attended the trial are reportedly satisfied with the outcome. "This is a clear sign the rule of law can be an answer to terrorism" said Andreas Schulz, a lawyer representing relatives. Federal prosecutors are however unhappy with the ruling, since they also sought a conviction for accessory to murder. They, as well as Motassedeq who wanted acquittal, are going to appeal before Germany's Supreme Court.

Back in 2003, Motassadeq was sentenced to 15 years in jail for accessory to murder but that ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court, making this retrial necessary.