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German court sentences friend of 9/11 pilots

January 09, 2007|From the Associated Press

HAMBURG, GERMANY — A Moroccan convicted of aiding three of the four suicide pilots who committed the Sept. 11 attacks was sentenced Monday to the maximum of 15 years in prison.

A German federal appeals court convicted Mounir Motassadeq in November as an accessory to murder and sent the case to a state court in Hamburg for sentencing.

"Anyone who helped in this has earned stiff punishment," presiding Judge Carsten Beckmann said after announcing Monday's verdict. Defense lawyers said they would appeal.

Shortly before the verdict was announced, the 32-year-old defendant exchanged emotionally charged words with an American whose mother died on one of the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center in 2001.

Dominic Puopolo Jr. fought back tears and held up pictures of his mother, Sonia Morales Puopolo, an American Airlines flight attendant. He urged the judges to consider the attacks' "human and emotional cost."

When the court granted Motassadeq a final chance to speak, the slightly built, bearded man turned to Puopolo to say: "I understand your suffering.... The same thing is being done to me, my kids, my parents, my family -- my future is ruined."

Puopolo replied, "Your life is not over, but my mom's is."

The federal appeals court had ruled that the Hamburg judges wrongly acquitted Motassadeq in 2005 of direct involvement in the attacks, even though the Hamburg court sentenced him to seven years in prison for belonging to a terrorist group.

Motassadeq was a close friend of pilots Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Samir Jarrah. He has acknowledged training at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan but has insisted that he knew nothing of the Sept. 11 plotters' plans.

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