The defense lawyer for a Moroccan accused of involvement in the September 11 attacks in 2001 said on Tuesday that new documents supplied by the US Justice Department would clear his client.
Udo Jacob says his client Mounir el Motassadeq will be cleared
Lawyer Udo Jacob said the documents containing details of interviews with two suspected planners of the attacks fail to prove that the accused, Mounir El Motassadeq, was aware of the plot to fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"Motassadeq must now be cleared of all charges," Jacob said outside the courtroom in the northern city of Hamburg. The long-awaited documents supplied by the US Justice Department contain summaries of the interrogations of Ramzi Binalshibh, whom US authorities believe helped mastermind the attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people.
Binalshibh said that Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian leader of the suicide pilots, only created his group in Germany, known as the "Hamburg cell," after 2000. That contradicts the prosecution's case that Atta formed the group in 1999.
Prosecuting attorney Matthias Krauss dismissed Binalshibh's testimony. "It stands in contradiction to numerous statements that we have found," he said. "The question is whether you believe Binalshibh."
He said he no longer asserted that the details of the September 11 attacks were planned in Hamburg in 1999, however, he remained convinced the Hamburg cell had decided to use violence against western targets by then. "We have no reason to depart from this conclusion," he said.
Krauß also pointed out that the US documents said Binalshibh "may have been intentionally withholding information and employing counter-interrogation techniques".
Motassadeq not named
Binalshibh did not name Motassadeq as a member of the cell and said they did not inform him of their plans. Motassadeq, 31, has admitted knowing Atta, but denies having any knowledge of the plot to attack New York and Washington.
The evidence from the United States also concerns interviews with Mohamed Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian national who was arrested in Senegal in January 2000 on suspicion of planning other attacks. The documents were rumored to have contained evidence from another alleged planner of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but that was not the case. All three men remain in US custody.
The defense said that if the evidence had been obtained through torture, it would not be admissible in a German court. Federal prosecutors said however they believed there was enough evidence to convict Motassadeq for membership of a terrorist group.
Motassadeq was jailed by a German court for 15 years in February 2003 for his role in the attacks, but in March 2004 a new trial was ordered because US authorities refused to allow Binalshibh and Sheikh Mohammed to testify. The Hamburg court had been waiting several months for the information from the United States. Washington has informed Berlin that it will not supply any further documents for use in Motassadeq's trial.