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Germany: 9/11 Trial Witness Says Suspect Was in Afghanistan
Reuters ^ | October 29 2003 | Philip Blenkinsop

Posted on 10/29/2003 9:52:57 AM PST by knighthawk

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - A Jordanian who says he served as Osama bin Laden's bodyguard told a German court on Wednesday he had seen a Moroccan charged with helping the September 11 hijackers at an al Qaeda hostel in Afghanistan.

Shadi Abdalla, who has since turned informant, said he spotted the accused, Abdelghani Mzoudi, both alone and with key figures in the 2001 suicide plane attacks on U.S. cities at lodgings frequented by al Qaeda trainees in mid-2000.

Mzoudi, a 30-year-old electrical engineering student from Morocco, is charged with 3,066 counts of aiding and abetting murder, and membership of a terrorist organization, the Hamburg-based al Qaeda cell accused of carrying out the attacks.

"I saw him in a guest house in Kandahar," Abdalla, with a ring of plain clothes police around him, told the judges.

Wednesday, judges rejected a motion by Mzoudi's defense to have the case dismissed on the basis of testimony by a top German intelligence official last week that the attacks were plotted in Afghanistan, undermining the prosecution's assertion that a German cell led the plot.

Presiding judge Klaus Ruehle said the array of evidence against Mzoudi was strong enough to continue the case.

"There is a strong suspicion that he supported the preparations for the attacks," Ruehle told the court.

Abdalla, himself on trial for planning grenade attacks in Germany, said he had talked to the accused in Afghanistan, although he did not know why Mzoudi had traveled there. Speaking in Arabic, Abdalla gave a long account of military training carried out, from target practice to explosives and of the periodic appearances of al Qaeda leader bin Laden, whom the tall Jordanian said he helped guard for two weeks.

"'Pray for your brothers, there will be an attack', he told us, but gave no details," the 26-year-old with thick glasses, told the court. Mzoudi barely glanced at the witness, leaning in to his translator, his forehead propped on his fist. His trial at a Hamburg court is the second anywhere of a Sept. 11 suspect after that of Mounir El Motassadeq, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail by the same court in February. Mzoudi could face the same prison term if found guilty.

However, unlike Motassadeq, who unwittingly incriminated himself with testimony that included a detailed description of his training in Afghanistan, Mzoudi has made no comment on his movements or possible links to the hijackers.

Three of the suicide pilots, including Mohamed Atta, who crashed the first plane into the World Trade Center, studied in the German port city of Hamburg.

Defense lawyers argue that Mzoudi did little more than help fellow Muslims living abroad and say his paying of student fees and other bills for the hijackers was in no way central to the Sept. 11 plot.

The case continues Thursday next week.

TOPICS: Germany; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: 911; abdelghanimzoudi; afghanistan; alqaeda; alqaedagermany; alqaida; germany; jordanian; moroccan; mzoudi; september11; shadiabdalla; terrortrials; waronterror

1 posted on 10/29/2003 9:52:58 AM PST by knighthawk
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To: MizSterious; rebdov; Nix 2; green lantern; BeOSUser; Brad's Gramma; dreadme; Turk2; keri; ...
2 posted on 10/29/2003 9:53:36 AM PST by knighthawk (And we all cry for freedom with your fists in the sky)
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German Judges Won't Drop Sept. 11 Charges

Associated Press

HAMBURG, Germany - A five-judge panel refused to release a Sept. 11 terror suspect in Germany Wednesday despite defense arguments that there is a flaw in the timeline prosecutors have assembled for the case.

Lawyers for Abdelghani Mzoudi, a Moroccan accused of supporting the Hamburg cell of al-Qaida, claim the cell only became involved in the suicide plane plot after four members attended Afghan training camps in late 1999. The indictment alleges their planning began months earlier.

However, the judges cited witness testimony that Mzoudi had been "in close contact over years" with the Hamburg terror cell, and appeared to reject the argument that the timeline presented by German intelligence agency chief Heinz Fromm undermined the government's case.

Fromm testified Friday that the plot originated with bin Laden's terror network in Afghanistan. He told the court that members of the Hamburg cell did not know the chosen targets or the plan to use airplanes until suicide pilots Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah and suspected al-Qaida contact Ramzi Binalshibh attended the Afghan camps.

"Federal prosecutors have built their case around the fact that the attack was planned in 1999 in Hamburg, and when that is not right, do the other charges against Mzoudi hold?" said defense lawyer Guel Pinar.

The indictment - which charges Mzoudi with 3,066 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization - says the group devised the plan in Hamburg in early 1999. Another Moroccan, Mounir el Motassadeq, was found guilty of the same charges, using identical arguments and timeframe, in February.

The government provided evidence in both trials that Atta and the others were actively involved in the Sept. 11 plot in Hamburg after returning from Afghanistan, locating flight schools and setting up payments for example.

This, experts say, should be enough to prosecute members of the cell under the German law at the time, which did not criminalize membership in a foreign terrorist organization, thus making it necessary to prove they were a domestic group.

Still, German media have been quick to question the strength of the government's case based on Fromm's testimony.

"Of course, this by no means proves that he and el Motassadeq are innocent," Der Spiegel wrote in its latest issue. But "Fromm's testimony makes it more difficult to prove that the opposite is the case."

Terrorism experts downplayed the defense argument. Even if the hijackers received their instructions in Afghanistan in late 1999, that does not disprove the government's assertion they formed an al-Qaida terror cell that summer intent on attacking the United States, said Kai Hirschmann, a terrorism researcher at the Federal College for Security Studies in Bonn.

"In my opinion, Fromm's testimony didn't change much at all," Hirschmann said. "But because now a public discussion has begun over what he said, I'm a little afraid this train will move onto the wrong tracks."
3 posted on 10/29/2003 9:54:38 AM PST by knighthawk (And we all cry for freedom with your fists in the sky)
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