Majed al Khatib in Cologne
Nabil Darwish in Rabat
Asharq Al-Awsat- Representatives of Moroccan suspect Mounir al Motassadeq, currently being re-tried in Germany , asked the court to acquit their client of charges of terrorism and conspiracy to kill, after the prosecution demanded the severest penalty be handed out.
Defense attorney, Udo Jacob, described the charges against his 31-year-old client as part of “a conspiracy”. He was responding to federal prosecutor Walter Hemberger playing down the evidence obtained from Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni al Qaeda operative currently held in the U.S, comparing his statements in support of the Moroccan suspect, to tales from “The Arabian Nights”.
Jacob reiterated his client had no knowledge of the plans to target U.S cities on September 11, 2002 and was not a member of the Hamburg cell who is suspect of planning and carrying out the attacks. He regretted al Motassadeq’s refusal to disclose undergoing military training at an al Qaeda camp in 2000, Jacob but claimed it was due to “my client’s naivety”.
During the first trial, the Moroccan suspect revealed he visited Afghanistan in the summer of 200 to learn about Islam, tour the country, and practice horse riding. He also denied the existence of a terrorist cell affiliated to the Egyptian Mohammed Atta, accused of masterminding the attacks, to which al Motassadeq is said to have belonged to.
By ignoring the testimony of Binalshibh and Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, currently imprisoned in the U.S, on the actions of al Motasadeq, the German federal investigators were deceiving the Hamburg court, Jacob contended. He added that the biggest proof of his client’s innocence was the fact he remained in Germany after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and cooperated with investigators instead of going into hiding.
The defense team is relying on the statements of two jailed al Qaeda operatives during their interrogation submitted to the German court by the U.S Department of Justice, which clear al Motassadeq of any wrongdoing. The testimonies allege the Moroccan suspect did not belong to the Hamburg cell and had no prior knowledge of the attacks. Jacob is also counting on the testimony of August Hanning, head of the German intelligence, who addressed the court and indicated the suicide attacks were planned in Afghanistan and not in Hamburg.
For its part, the prosecution accuses al Motassadeq, an electrical engineering student at Hamburg’s Technical University, of belonging to a terrorist organization and conspiring to kill 3036 individuals who lost their lives on September 11, in New York City and Washington D.C. He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years behind bars in February 2003 but an appeals court overturned that verdict and ordered a new trial citing the new information provided by the testimonies of Binalshibh and Mohammed.
In Morocco, Ibrahim al Motassadeq, father of the Moroccan Mounir al Motassadeq, aged 30, currently being re-tried in Germnay for his suspected involvement with the Hamburg cell of al Qaeda, which planned the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S cities, spoke exclusively to Asharq Al Awsat. Predicted the justice system in Germany would acquit his son, he said, “If the justice system is fair and if the trial examines all the available evidence, my son will be exonerated.” He also revealed Mounir planned to return to Morocco after he is freed instead of staying in Germany, since “he has almost completed his studies. He is still required to undergo a six months training period which he can complete in Morocco.”
Ibrahim wished he could be close to his son and expressed his regret at the decision of German immigration officials who declined to issue him the necessary travel documents to enter the country and witness the trial.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan Abdelghani Mzoudi who was freed by Germany’s federal appeals court in June 2005 after being acquitted of taking part in the September 11 attacks spoke to Asharq Al Awsat, form his residency in Marrakech, of the similarities between his trial and that of al Motassadeq. He predicted, “The court will issue a non-guilty verdict”, adding he kept himself up-to-date with the trial despite having no contact with the suspect. Mzoudi revealed he met al Motassadeq’s family after his return to Morocco and assured them of their son’s high spirits.
It is expected the court in Hamburg, which is examining charges of terrorism against al Motassadeq, will reach its final verdict on 19th August 2005.