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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Germany withholds Moussaoui evidence
Zacarias Moussaoui before US District Judge Leonie Brinkema
Moussaoui has insisted on representing himself
Germany has told the United States it will withhold evidence against 11 September suspect Zacarias Moussaoui unless it receives assurances the information will not be used to secure a death penalty against him.

In an interview with the Der Spiegel news magazine, Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin said: "Our documents cannot be used for the death penalty or for an execution."

US officials say Mr Moussaoui, who was detained on immigration charges before 11 September, was meant to be the 20th hijacker in the attacks in New York and Washington.

Rescue workers at Ground Zero
Moussaoui faces charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism
Four of the six conspiracy charges he faces carry a possible death sentence, a punishment banned in European Union states, including Germany.

Ms Daeubler-Gmelin insisted the issue would not put more pressure on relations between Germany and the US - relations which are already strained by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's criticism of US threats to attack Iraq.

On Thursday, German prosecutors announced they had charged another suspect, Mounir al-Motassadek, with belonging to a terrorist group and being an accessory to murder.

Different laws

Germany has played a central role in the investigation into the 11 September attacks, which killed more than 3,000 people.

Three of the hijackers, including suspected ringleader Mohammed Atta, lived in the northern German port city of Hamburg.

German investigators reportedly have evidence linking Mr Moussaoui to Atta, who piloted the first plane into the World Trade Center.

Mohammed Atta
Mr Moussaoui is said to have had links with Mohammed Atta
But the government insists it can not bend laws forbidding the supply of evidence that could incriminate someone facing execution.

A letter explaining the long-standing German position had been sent to US authorities in reply to a request for information about Moussaoui, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin said.

"At the moment, the US is examining our answer and will then get back to us," she said.

A spokesman for the US Justice Department said he had no immediate comment.

Cooperation between justice authorities in the two countries is "good and trustful," Ms Daeubler-Gmelin said. "After 11 September, one shouldn't try to soften that."

20th hijacker?

Zacarias Moussaoui, 34, was arrested last summer after arousing suspicion at a flight school in Minnesota.

He became the first person to be charged directly in connection with the attacks.

He is being held in custody in pending the opening of his trial in January.

US law enforcement officials have said Mr Moussaoui received two money transfers from a man who shared a flat with Atta in Hamburg.

Mr Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, has denied involvement in the attacks but has admitted to being a member of al Qaeda.

Key stories

European probe


See also:

16 Aug 02 | Americas
25 Jul 02 | Americas
19 Jul 02 | Americas
28 Mar 02 | Americas
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