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Trial of Sept. 11 Suspect Begins

August 15, 2003|From Associated Press

HAMBURG, Germany — A Moroccan accused of aiding Al Qaeda in the Sept. 11 terror attacks was a follower of radical Islam and took part in the plot from the start, prosecutors alleged on the first day of his trial Thursday.

Abdelghani Mzoudi, 30, faces 3,066 counts of being an accessory to murder and a charge of being a member of a terrorist organization for allegedly supporting members of the Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg.

Mzoudi listened quietly to the charges against him, occasionally bowing his head or talking with his lawyers. He faces a possible 15 years in prison -- the same sentence handed down in February to Moroccan Mounir Motassadeq, the first Sept. 11 terror suspect to stand trial.

Mzoudi's lawyers have said he will not testify. However, in response to a judge's questions, he briefly described growing up in Marrakesh.

"My mother taught me the good values of Islam: honesty, not to steal and not to kill," said Mzoudi, wearing a blue sweater and sporting a full beard.

Mzoudi is accused of taking care of financial matters in Hamburg for alleged cell member Zakariya Essabar while he was training at one of Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan in 2000. He also allegedly made sure Essabar's finances were taken care of by a third person during his own trip to Afghanistan. Essabar is wanted by Germany on an international warrant.

The indictment also alleges that Mzoudi helped conceal the whereabouts of lead hijacker Mohamed Atta, hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi and Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni in U.S. custody who is believed to have been the Hamburg cell's key contact with Al Qaeda.

Mzoudi found a room in a Hamburg student residence for Binalshibh and al-Shehhi that allowed them to stay in Germany unnoticed, and he allowed al-Shehhi and Atta to use his Hamburg mailing address while they were taking flying lessons in Florida, the indictment says.

Defense attorney Michael Rosenthal told the court that the charges were full of unproved assumptions.

Guel Pinar, Mzoudi's other lawyer, questioned prosecutors' portrayal of Mzoudi as an Islamic radical and called for Binalshibh to be called to testify -- which the United States refused to allow in Motassadeq's trial.

Mzoudi told the German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2001 that he had been friends with the Hamburg-based suicide pilots but didn't know their plans.

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