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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 16:34 GMT
Al-Qaeda suspect tells of Chechnya link
Hamburg street where hijacker Mohammed Atta used live
Prosecutors claim Motassadek was key to Hamburg cell
Some of the 11 September hijackers wanted to fight against Russia in Chechnya, their alleged accomplice has told a German court.

Mounir al-Motassadek told his trial in Hamburg that at least four of the men had gone to Afghanistan to be trained for the war in Chechnya.


Atta, al Shehi, bin al Shaibah and Jarrah wanted to go to Chechnya because of the massacre that the Russians were carrying out

Mounir al-Motassadek
The Russians were seen by the men as committing war crimes in Chechnya, Mr Motassadek said, and they wanted to go there to help combat them.

Mr Motassadek is the first man to stand trial over the 11 September attacks. He is accused of being an accessory to more than 3,000 murders in New York and Washington, and of belonging to an al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg.

He told the court that four alleged al-Qaeda men - hijackers Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehi, Ziad Jarrah and suspect Ramzi bin al Shaibah - had all wanted to go to Chechnya.

"Atta, al Shehi, bin al Shaibah and Jarrah wanted to go to Chechnya because of the massacre that the Russians were carrying out," Mr Motassadek told the court.

Mounir al-Motassadek
Motassadek insists he knew the Muslims only socially
Posters and "propaganda" on the Chechen war were on display in a number of Hamburg mosques at the time, he said, but he was not interested.

"I was a newlywed at the time," he said. "I decided to stay here for the time being."

Prosecutors believe the real purpose of the Afghanistan trip was to train for the 11 September attacks.

They say the four men made their first 11 September planning trip to Afghanistan in 1999. A second group, including Mr Motassadek, went six months later.

Mr Motassadek, 28, has admitted that he did go to an Afghan al-Qaeda training camp in 2000.

Weapons training

But he insists he went only to fulfil a demand of Islam to be trained in the use of weapons, and not to prepare for any terror attacks.

Prosecutors are portraying Mr Motassadek as a "substantial cog" in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell which they say lay at the heart of the 11 September attacks.

Mr Motassadek has insisted that he knew nothing about the attacks, and knew the hijackers only socially.

Judge Albrecht Mentz
Judge Albrecht Mentz is presiding over the trial
The Russian Government has repeatedly insisted that al-Qaeda has links with the rebels fighting in Chechnya.

Officials suggested this week that some foreign fighters might have been among the rebels involved in the seizing of hundreds of hostages at a Moscow theatre.

Mr Motassadek was also questioned about his links with a wider Muslim student group in Hamburg, alleged by prosecutors to be a front for the al-Qaeda cell.

He insisted that the group did little more than pray and eat together.

"Much has been said that isn't true... We just had a small prayer room," he told the court.

He said he had a number of friends among the dozens of Muslim students in Hamburg.

"I knew many people much better than Atta," he said.

And he denied knowing much about a bank account which he ran for Shehi, said by prosecutors to have been the hijackers' key funding pot.

Prosecutors claim he used it to pay for the hijackers' flight training in the US, but he says he only helped Shehi pay his bills.

The only other person to have been charged directly with the 11 September attacks is Frenchman Zacarias Moussaoui, who is due to stand trial in the United States in June.

Mr Motassadek faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.


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27 Oct 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
22 Oct 02 | Europe
22 Oct 02 | Americas
29 Aug 02 | Americas
29 Aug 02 | Europe
06 Sep 02 | Europe
28 May 02 | Europe
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