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Germany

French Help Sought in Motassadeq Retrial

Germany will seek information from France in the case of Mounir el Motassadeq, the man facing retrial over his alleged involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks, the federal prosecutor's office said Wednesday.

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Motassadeq (left) walked in April. Now he's back on trial in Hamburg

"We are going to ask, in a request to French authorities, if there is any new information which we don't know about," spokeswoman for the federal prosecutors office Frauke Scheuten told AFP.

Scheuten said "there is a need for clarification" of a report in German newsmagazine Stern about links between Motassadeq and a prisoner being held in France, German citizen Christian Ganczarski.

Suspect allegedly close to bin Laden contact

Motassadeq was allegedly in close contact with Ganczarski, who "was himself personally extremely important for (Osama) bin Laden (chief of the al Qaeda group)," according to Thursday's issue of Stern, citing French investigators.

Motassadeq, a friend of three of the suicide hijackers involved in the attacks on New York on Sept. 11, 2001, was sentenced in February 2003 to the maximum 15 years in prison on charges of membership of a terrorist organization and more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder.

But a German federal tribunal overturned the conviction last year and ordered a new trial, which is under way in Hamburg with a verdict expected on August 19.

Ganczarski arrested in Djerba bombing inquiry

Ghriba Synagoge in Djerba Tunesien

Ghriba Synagoge in Djerba, Tunesia

Ganczarski was expelled from Saudi Arabia and arrested in June 2003 in France, then charged as part of an inquiry into an attack against a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, which killed 21 people on April 11, 2002.

A second man in custody in France, Moroccan Karim Mehdi, told French investigators that one of the September 11 suicide pilots, the Lebanese Ziad Jarrah, was recruited in eastern Germany city of Duisburg, where Ganczarski was based, Stern said.

However, Mehdi's defense lawyer, Udo Jacob, told Stern: "It is false that Motassadeq knew Christian (Gaczarski)."

Motassadeq link to al Qaeda 'big fish' sought

Ganczarski was described by the French investigators, quoted by Stern, as "the biggest fish (of al Qaeda) caught in Europe up until now."

Mehdi was arrested in June 2003 at the Paris airport Roissy, on his arrival from Germany. He was sought by police over his alleged links with Ziad Jarrah.

Combo: Marrokanische Terroristen El Motassadeq und Mzoudi

Motassadeq and Mzoudi

A fellow Moroccan student, Abdelghani Mzoudi (photo), was acquitted on the same charges Motassadeq is now facing in February 2004. Under threat of deportation, he returned to Marrakesh on June 21.

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