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Court Orders Sept. 11 Suspect Back to Prison

German police detained convicted terrorist Mounir el Motassadeq, 32, in Hamburg Friday when judges cancelled his bail, one day after he was found guilty of assisting the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Mounir el Motassadeq

Mounir el Motassadeq left his apartment in Hamburg on Friday escorted by police

Motassadeq, a Moroccan student, had been free on bail but under police monitoring since February as the German courts reviewed his case. He had been given seven years in jail last year for being a member of the Hamburg terrorist cell that produced three of the Sept. 11 pilots.

On Thursday, German High Court judges added a second conviction as an accessory to the murder of 246 occupants of the hijacked planes that crashed in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania.

On Friday, a German federal court ordered the Moroccan be returned to prison while awaiting sentencing, overturning a lower court decision.

Rivalries between German federal and state courts were evident Friday as state judges in the northern city of Hamburg refused to order Motassadeq be put in jail. It was a federal court in Kalsruhe ordered he be remanded to police custody.

Smoke pouring from the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 attacks

Sept. 11, 2001 in New York

"He was picked up at his Hamburg apartment without any difficulty," a police source in Hamburg told the dpa news agency. Motassadeq, 32, has been in and out of Hamburg jails since he was first detained the month after the 2001 attacks, when he claimed he had no foreknowledge of the strikes.

Flight risk

Judges in Karlsruhe said the fact that Motassadeq's family had left Germany for Morocco created an increased risk that he would try to flee before a sentencing hearing that was likely to be "to his disadvantage."

Two panels of Hamburg judges had earlier said Motassadeq could be trusted because he had always observed bail conditions in the past. His lawyer, Ladislav Anicic, told the website Spiegel Online that his client had no intention of running away.

As a close friend of Mohammed Atta and other pilots and a graduate of an al Qaeda Afghan training camp, he was convicted last year of membership in a terrorist cell. On Thursday he was found guilty of an actual role in 9/11 because he also covered the plotters' tracks.

A date has not yet been set for sentencing.


Defense attorney Anisic on Sunday said Motassadeq will appeal to Germany's highest court against his conviction.

The lawyer said that the 32-year-old will take his case to Germany's Federal Constitutional Court. He said the defense will charge that the conviction contravenes Germany's basic law, but added that defense attorneys had yet to decide how they will argue the case.

"We are looking at that now," Anisic said in a telephone interview. "So long as he is alive, our client wants to fight for people to believe him."

News agencies yesterday reported that Motassadeq had decided not to appeal the verdict.

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