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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Moroccan jailed in 9/11 retrial
Mounir al-Motassadek in court in Hamburg, 19 August 2005
Mounir al-Motassadek insisted he knew nothing about the plot
A Moroccan man who was friends with three of the 9/11 suicide hijackers has been found guilty in Germany of belonging to a terrorist organisation.

Mounir al-Motassadek, 31, was sentenced to seven years in prison following a year-long retrial.

However, the court in Hamburg ruled there was no proof that he knew about the 11 September 2001 plot.

Motassadek was originally convicted of those charges in 2003 but the verdict was overturned and a retrial ordered.

After the original conviction was quashed by Germany's Supreme Court last year, the retrial heard new evidence - excerpts of interviews with key al-Qaeda suspects provided by the US.

November 2001: Arrested in Hamburg
February 2003: Convicted of being accessory to 9/11 attacks
February 2004: Mzoudi acquitted on same charges
March 2004: Motassadek conviction quashed
July 2004: Moves towards deportation to Morocco begin, pending trial outcome
August 2004: Retrial starts

One of these told how Motassadek had taken part in vitriolic anti-US discussions in the home of hijacker Mohammed Atta, but also insisted he was not aware of the 9/11 plot.

Prosecutors argued that Motassadek provided key assistance to the "Hamburg cell", pointing out that he signed the will of Atta - believed to be the ringleader of the 19 suicide hijackers - and held power of attorney on the bank account of another hijacker.

While the hijackers were attending flight training schools in the US, he used that power of attorney to handle the transfer of small amounts of money for them.

Motassadek had also admitted attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in early 2000.

But he has repeatedly denied any prior knowledge of the attacks on New York and Washington, saying that the favours he did for the hijackers were just part of being a good Muslim.

Motassadek's lawyer said on Friday he would appeal against the new verdict.

US criticised

When Motassadek was originally convicted, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Following the quashing of that conviction he was released on bail.

Announcing the fresh verdict, Judge Ernst-Rainer Schudt did not explain the reasons, but he criticised the US for not giving more evidence.

Washington had refused to let the court question captured al-Qaeda suspects, citing security concerns, and released only excerpts of information the prisoners revealed during interrogation.

"The point is we would have liked to have questioned them ourselves," said Judge Schudt.

He said the summaries released by the US did not constitute "sufficient proof in either direction".

The BBC's Ray Furlong in Berlin says the latest verdict is something of a surprise as there had been an expectation that Motassadek would be acquitted, after a fellow Moroccan was cleared of having links to the 9/11 hijackers.

Abdelghani Mzoudi was cleared by the same Hamburg court in February 2004 and the decision upheld by Germany's federal appeals court in June.

See Mounir al-Motassadek in court

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