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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 16:25 GMT
First 11 September suspect jailed
Mounir al-Motassadek
Judge Mentz said Motassadek knew about the attacks

Mounir al-Motassadek, the first man to stand trial over the 11 September attacks, has been jailed for 15 years.

The 28-year-old Moroccan was found guilty in Germany of being an accessory to the murder of more than 3,000 people in the attacks on New York and Washington.

He was also convicted by the Hamburg court of being a member of a terrorist organisation, and of attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm.

The accused belonged to this group since its inception - he knew and approved the key elements of the planned attacks
Presiding Judge Albrecht Mentz
Motassadek was found to have provided back-up to a Hamburg-based terror cell as it plotted to hijack planes and fly them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

He denied the charges, and defence lawyers have said they will appeal against the conviction.

Substantial role

The panel of five judges handed down its ruling amid tight security outside the court.

Motassadek showed no emotion as the sentence was read out.

Al-Motassadek, flanked by defence lawyers Hartmut Jacobi and Hans Liestritz
Motassadek is expected to appeal against the verdict
"The accused belonged to this group since its inception," said presiding Judge Albrecht Mentz. "He knew and approved the key elements of the planned attacks.

"This group of Arab-Muslim students planned the attacks out of hatred for the United States and Israel.

"They wanted to strike at the foundations of the United States with this attack of unprecedented dimensions."

Stephen Push, whose wife Lisa was killed on one of the aircraft used in the attacks and who was present at the trial, welcomed the verdict.

"This is a wise decision," he told Reuters news agency. "I'm only sorry he couldn't get a longer sentence because someone who is committed to al Qaeda is a very dangerous person who needs to be kept away from society."

More than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder
Membership of a terrorist organisation
Five counts of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm

Prosecutors had described Motassadek, an electrical engineering student, as a willing participant in the plot and a willing adherent to the hijackers' ideology.

He was found to have played a substantial logistical role in the preparation of the 11 September attacks.

He managed the bank account of one of the hijackers, Marwan al-Shehhi - which prosecutors have said served as a financing pot for an al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, and was used to pay for flying lessons in the US.

Training camps

He also signed the will of the alleged ringleader of the cell, Mohammed Atta, and had attended al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

But Motassadek's lawyers said they would appeal on the basis that evidence used by the prosecution against him did not stand up.

They said his involvement with Atta and al-Shehhi amounted to nothing more than innocent favours between friends.

Motassadek said that he rejected violence and denied that he had been converted to extremism.

The BBC's Tristana Moore
"Motassadek's lawyers said they would appeal"

Stephen Push, representative of 11 Sep families
"I think they had a very solid case"

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