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Germany

Court Upholds Acquittal of Terror Suspect

Germany’s Federal Appeals Court on Thursday upheld alower court's acquittal of Abdelghani Mzoudi, who was accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Mzoudi smiles after acquittal in Feb. 2004


The German Federal Appeals Court in Karlsruhe upheld an earlier court decision to acquit the 32-year-old Moroccan student of all charges of aiding the Hamburg terror cell which launched the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Abdelghani Mzoudi was first brought to trial in 2003 on charges of aiding and abetting in the murder of more than 3,000 people. The trial collapsed and Mzoudi was later acquitted in a February 2004 appeals decision.

Mzoudi (talking to his lawyer) was acquitted in Hamburg after more than five months on trial

After more than five months on trial, the Higher Regional Court in Hamburg ruled there was insufficient proof to demonstrate Mzoudi's involvement in the Hamburg terror cell and association with a terror organization.

Federal prosecutors had called for a revision of the acquittal of only the second person brought to trial for complicity in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but failed to demonstrate the necessity of a revision on Thursday.

The Karlsruhe court, the country's highest appeals court, rejected the call for a retrial, arguing that the initial ruling was sound.

Lack of proof

Mzoudi, who was a friend of lead hijacker Mohamed Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell involved in plotting the terror attacks, has repeatedly denied having knowledge of the group’s plans. The presiding judge during the Feb. 2004 trial described the Moroccan student as a “fringe figure” and justified the acquittal because there was insufficient proof against Mzoudi, not because the court was convinced of his innocence.

The ongoing case against Mzoudi has led to tensions between Germany and the United States because of Washington’s refusal, on security grounds, to allow captured al Qaeda leaders to testify or to provide information from their interrogations. The lack of such input is largely believed to have lead to the prosecution’s failure to convict. The chief federal prosecutor has described US behavior as “incomprehensible.”

Mounir El Motassadeq, suspected of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, faces a retrial

Another Moroccan residing in Germany, Mounir El Motassadeq, is currently in the midst of a retrial on similar charges in Hamburg. Like Mzoudi, he denies involvement and knowledge of the attacks.

Deportation probable

Despite the confirmation of acquittal, Mzoudi could face deportation from Germany. Authorities in the northern city of Hamburg, where Mzoudi resides, say they still consider him an “especially dangerous” supporter of international terrorism and have vowed to expel him once legal proceedings are over.

The director of the city-state’s department for internal affairs, Reinhard Fallak, said an earlier decision to deport Mzoudi was still in effect, having only been postponed for the duration of the appeals hearing. Mzoudi now has 14 days to leave the country.



DW.DE