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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 19:56 GMT 20:56 UK
Moroccan denies 11 September role
A sketch of the courtroom
Photographers were ordered out of the courtroom
A 28-year-old Moroccan man accused of supporting the 11 September attackers has denied any knowledge of plans to launch terror strikes on the United States.

Violence cannot solve anything

Mounir al-Motassadek
Mounir al-Motassadek went on trial in Germany on Tuesday, charged with membership of a terrorist cell and of being an accessory to the murder of more than 3,000 people.

He told the court in the northern city of Hamburg that although he was a close friend of the suicide hijackers' alleged ringleader, Mohammed Atta, he had no idea of the planned attacks and said he rejected violence.

"Violence cannot solve anything," he said.

But he did confirm for the first time that he had visited a training camp in Afghanistan, which was run by al-Qaeda.

Police outside the Hamburg courthouse
Security around the courthouse is strict

"I learned that [Osama] Bin Laden was responsible for the camp and had been at the camp sometimes," he said.

"I didn't know that beforehand and I didn't meet him either."

Mr Motassadek is accused of having managed the bank account of Marwan al-Shehhi, the pilot of the second plane to hit the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September.

Prosecutors say the account served as a financing pot for an al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, and was used to pay for flying lessons in the US.

Mr Motassadek is the first man to stand trial for the 11 September attacks. The only other person to have been charged is Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national whose trial is expected to start in the US in June.

Security is rigorous and on the first day, four men were briefly detained on suspicion of making hand signals to the defendant.

Long trial

Prosecutors in Hamburg will read the 100-page indictment to the court, and Mr Motassadek will have a chance to respond over the next few days.

More than 160 witnesses are expected to be called in the trial, which is expected to last several months, and could result in a sentence of life imprisonment.

However, Mr Motassadek's defence says there is not enough evidence for a conviction.

Mohammed Atta
Mohammed Atta "wanted to fight in Chechnya"
"The court will realise that the accused must be found innocent," said lawyer Hartmut Jacobi in his opening remarks.

There is tight security in Hamburg, with large numbers of police blocking the busy street outside the city's supreme court building.

The panel of five judges will spend the trial behind a bullet-proof glass screen.

Food boycott

Mr Motassadek said he had often discussed religion and politics with Mohammed Atta, particularly the Middle East conflict.

The only protest Atta had proposed against US support for Israel, he said, was a boycott of American foods.

But he added that Atta had expressed a desire to go to Chechnya to fight alongside the rebels.

Until his court appearance, Mr Motassadek had denied accusations that he attended a training camp in Afghanistan in mid-2000, saying that he only got as far as Pakistan.

The BBC's Frank Gardner reports from Hamburg
"The first round in this case probably goes to the prosecution"
Joseph Graessler-Muencher, Mounir's former lawyer
"In early 2000, these people split and everybody went their own way"

Key stories

European probe


See also:

22 Oct 02 | Americas
29 Aug 02 | Americas
29 Aug 02 | Europe
06 Sep 02 | Europe
28 May 02 | Europe
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