Thursday, June 09, 2005

Court Upholds 9-11 Suspect's Acquittal

ABC News
Court Upholds 9-11 Suspect's Acquittal
German Court Upholds Acquittal of Man Suspected of Helping Hijackers in Sept. 11 Attacks
The Associated Press

Jun. 9, 2005 - A German appeals court Thursday upheld the acquittal of a Sept. 11 suspect in a case decided partly by U.S. refusals to allow the use of testimony from captured al-Qaida members.

Abdelghani Mzoudi was acquitted in 2004 of charges he helped hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah in their plot to attack the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The five-judge panel did not immediately say why it had upheld the verdict.

Mzoudi's case will now be handed over to immigration authorities. With his student visa no longer valid, Mzoudi has two weeks to leave the country, said Norbert Smekal, a spokesman for the Hamburg state immigration department.

The process could be delayed, however, if Mzoudi decides to apply for political asylum or take other legal steps, said Hartmut Jacobi, one of his attorneys.

"He has not yet decided whether he will remain here," Jacobi told The Associated Press.

Mzoudi had been charged with more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization for allegedly providing logistical support to the three Hamburg-based suicide hijackers.

Testimony at his trial showed that Mzoudi trained at the same al-Qaida camps as the hijackers and was close friends with them in Hamburg. But Hamburg state court judges ruled that the prosecution failed to prove he knew anything about their plot.

In their appeal, prosecutors argued that the Hamburg judges failed to rule on whether Atta's group constituted a terrorist organization, making it impossible to determine whether Mzoudi was a member.

Mzoudi's friend and fellow Moroccan, Mounir el Motassadeq, was convicted in 2003 of identical charges and sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison.

The same panel that heard Mzoudi's case at the Federal Court of Justice overturned el Motassadeq's conviction last year and ordered a retrial, ruling that he had been unfairly denied testimony from al-Qaida captives in U.S. custody an issue that also contributed to Mzoudi's acquittal.

A verdict in the el Motassadeq case is expected in August. Hamburg authorities have said that if he is also acquitted, they will move to expel him to Morocco as well, once his appeals are exhausted.