| Moroccan Mounir el Motassadeq at the Hamburg court room on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Hamburg, Feb. 19 (Reuters): A German court convicted a Moroccan today of aiding the September 11 suicide hijackers and sentenced him to the maximum possible 15-year jail term in the first trial of an attack conspirator.
Mounir el Motassadeq, 28, a slightly built electrical engineering student, was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of 3,066 people in the plane attacks on New York and Washington, presiding judge Albrecht Mentz said.
Mentz said Motassadeq had belonged to a Hamburg-based al Qaida cell led by Mohamed Atta, an Egyptian who also studied in the German port city and who US authorities say crashed the first plane into the World Trade Center. “The accused belonged to the group surrounding Atta from the time it was founded. This group of Arab-Muslim students planned the attacks out of hatred for the US and Israel,” Mentz said.
“They wanted to strike at the foundations of the US with this attack of unprecedented dimensions.”
Motassadeq, who stared at the floor as the verdict was read and shook his head on occasions, had denied the charges but admitted he had known Atta and had trained at a camp in Afghanistan run by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network.
The Hamburg court was ringed by tight security as Mentz delivered a two-hour explanation of the decision by the panel of five judges.
Sporting a thin beard, Motassadeq had portrayed himself as a man of peace who had studied hard and loved soccer, a man surrounded by men whose plans he could not have imagined.
The prosecution’s case hinged on Motassadeq’s close friendship with six alleged plotters, his financial transfers for Marwan al Shehi, the man said to have smashed the second plane into the World Trade Center, and his Afghan training.
A German witness who heard Al Shehi warn of“thousands of deaths” and another who said Motassadeq had talked of burning Jews so he could “dance on their graves” had also been crucial.