9/11 plotter Motassadeq jailed for 15 yrs | india | Hindustan Times
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9/11 plotter Motassadeq jailed for 15 yrs

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 11:07 IST

A court in Hamburg doubled the jail term for Moroccan student Mounir al-Motassadeq for plotting the 9/11 attacks in the US to the maximum 15 years in prison.

Motassadeq, 32, had been convicted in 2005 of being part of a terrorist cell and sentenced to seven years, but federal appeal judges last year added a further conviction of accessory to the murder of 246 people on the four hijacked planes and directed a re-sentencing.

The hearing, which began on Friday and was interrupted by a series of unsuccessful defence challenges, was the fifth time in court for Motassadeq, after two trials and two appeals relating to the attacks on Sep 11, 2001, which claimed around 3,000 lives.

The student was a close friend of three of the hijack pilots and a member of their prayer group before they moved to the US to train as pilots. Though he denies it, judges at two trials were sure he knew in advance of the attacks on New York and Washington.

Increasing the sentence on Monday, presiding judge Carsten Beckmann said the exculpating fact that Motassadeq took no physical part in the attacks was outweighed by the enormity of the murders.

The term of 15 years is the same as Motassadeq received at his first trial in 2003, and in line with a broad hint from the appeal judges last year. Another student, Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, was acquitted on nearly identical evidence in 2004 and went home to Morocco.

Both men had been technology students at a free university in Hamburg. Federal prosecutor Walter Hemberger said Motassadeq had come to Germany as a guest, and then plotted the deaths of people of many nationalities including Germans.

In his speech on Monday, Motassadeq insisted anew that he was innocent. "There never was a terrorist organisation in Hamburg," he said.

A series of defence motions failed to halt the sentence. The defence alleged bias by the three state superior court judges, but separate judges quashed the challenge as the court moved unswervingly to a closure.

The two previous trials in the same high-security courtroom had dragged on for months.

Ladislav Anisic, one of two legal-aid lawyers in court for Motassadeq, said he would continue appeals for his client, who won his first retrial because evidence from US interrogations of terrorists was withheld from the court.

"This is only an intermediate stage on the way up to the next court," he said outside the courtroom.