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German Press Review: Terror in Many Forms

German editorials on Wednesday focussed on the Hamburg retrial of a Moroccan accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks and Libya's announcement that it will compensate victims of a 1986 bombing in Berlin.

The Handelsblatt criticized the on-again, off-again agreement by the US to provide evidence about terrorist suspects held in the United States, whom Mounir el Motassadeq, the only Sept. 11 terror suspect ever convicted, allegedly aided in carrying out the attacks in New York and Washington. In the first trial, the United States refused to help German prosecutors. Now, Washington will offer summaries from suspects’ testimonies. But there’s no talk at all of prosecutors being able to take a peek into confidential information. Washington also ruled out direct contact with witnesses. The Americans are setting their own priorities in the war against terror: Keeping secrets rather than cooperating with the all-too-familiar consequences for law and justice, the Handelsblatt lamented.

The United States is being secretive, and doesn’t trust the German legal system any farther than it can throw it, agreed the Leipziger Volkszeitung. The US government has the presumed Sept. 11 attack mastermind, Ramzi Binalshibh, in custody, but still won’t let German judges question him. It was due to missing witness testimony that a German appeals court remanded the case back to Hamburg last March. Still, only summaries of interrogations are being sent across the Atlantic, and that’s going to lead to gaps in the court case. Gaps lead to doubts, and where there’s doubt, the case will end in dismissal -- even if Motassadeq is guilty. An acquittal, the newspaper concluded, would be a bitter defeat in the war against terror.

The Mannheimer Morgen took an even harsher approach. Not only is the witness Binalshibh not allowed to testify, Washington won’t even admit to having arrested him, the paper commented. If Washington doesn’t lay its cards on the table, the second court case is going to end like the first -- with Motassadeq walking free, global outrage, and a sharp slap in the face for the German legal system.

It was a different act of terrorism -- the 1986 bombing of the Berlin nightclub "La Belle" -- and Libya’s agreement to pay $35 million (€28.4 million) to victims that caught the attention of the Financial Times Deutschland. Libya has not claimed responsibility for the bombing, but instead, called the offer a "humanitarian gesture." The $35 million is a smart investment, the paper wrote. The Libyan leader has now cleared away one of the last hurdles preventing the country from being part of the normal international community. But it would be silly for Europeans, and especially Germans, to get too excited, the paper continued. With all its oil sales, Libya is certainly an interesting economic partner, but Gadhafi’s Libya is and remains a tough dictatorship, the daily noted.Now that Libya has made all the important steps to crawl out of a dirty political hole, it's high time for the European Union to do something, the Lübecker Nachrichten remarked. The EU must help Libya set up a modern economy. It’s worth it, the paper claimed. Not only is Libya wealthy, it’s also good for Europe when conditions for North Africans improve because that will turn off the tap to Islamic extremists.

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