Lawyers for the only man convicted over the Sept. 11 attacks in the US said Tuesday they will call for the case against him to be thrown out when he returns to trial next week.
Motassadeq's 15-year sentence was thrown out in March
One of the attorneys for Moroccan student Mounir El Motassadeq, Josef Grässle-Münscher, told AFP newsagency that he would argue that key witnesses in US custody had been tortured, making their testimony inadmissible in court.
Motassadeq, 30, was sentenced in February 2003 to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the so-called Hamburg cell around Mohammad Atta which produced three of the 19 hijackers who attacked New York and Washington.
But a federal tribunal quashed the conviction in March and sent the case back to the Hamburg court that originally sentenced him, citing the absence of potentially crucial testimony by the Hamburg mastermind behind the plot, Ramzi Binalshibh.
Binalshibh (photo), a Yemeni national, is currently being held by US authorities in an undisclosed location.
Fair trial no longer possible?
Grässle-Münscher said he would argue that even if the United States now agreed to provide detailed information secured during the interrogation of Binalshibh, it would be legally tainted.
"A fair trial is no longer possible because the important evidence is either lacking or contaminated," Grässle-Münscher said, referring to rumors that Binalshibh had been tortured since he was handed over to the US authorities after his arrest in Pakistan in September 2002.
Motassadeq during his trial in February 2003
The Hamburg court had found Motassadeq guilty of membership in a terrorist organization and more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder based on the logistical help he allegedly provided to the hijackers.
After the federal tribunal rejected that judgment in the spring, Motassadeq was released from prison. His new trial is scheduled to start on August 10 and last until early 2005.
Prosecution is confident
Britain's Observer newspaper reported last month that concerns surrounding the alleged torture of the key witnesses could force German prosecutors to abandon the retrial of Motassadeq, because under German law courts cannot accept evidence if it is thought to come under duress or torture.
A senior German intelligence official reportedly told The Observer that the inability to prove the testimony was admissible would make it worthless.
"They contain no details as to where Binalshibh was questioned, nor whether torture or other forms of force were used to make them talk," the official said, saying German courts would be extremely tough after the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal in Iraq.
But Germany's federal prosecutor said Friday he was confident he could get a fresh conviction against Motassadeq because he believed US authorities would now cooperate in supplying testimony from Binalshibh.
The US Justice Department had previously refused to provide detailed intelligence from terror suspects in its custody, citing national security concerns.
Will key witnesses testify?
Grässle-Münscher said he would insist Binalshibh and all other alleged operatives from the al-Qaeda network relevant to the case testify personally, a request already rejected by US authorities.
"It would only be acceptable for us if these witnesses appear in court," he said.
Abdelghani Mzoudi (left) smiles besides his attorney Guel Pinar after his acquittal in February
Binalshibh has reportedly told his interrogators that Motassadeq and a fellow Moroccan who was acquitted in Hamburg in February, Abdelghani Mzoudi (photo), had nothing to do with the conspiracy to attack US targets.
Grässle-Münscher said that even if Binalshibh's potentially favorable testimony is judged inadmissible by the court, it should still find his client not guilty. "If a defendant is forced to give up evidence because torture is used, the court cannot hold that against him," he said.