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Fighting terror

Germany keeps files from terror defendant

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 5, 2003

HAMBURG, Germany -- In a move that drew cries of protest from the defendant in court Tuesday, Germany refused for a second time to turn over evidence sought by defense lawyers in a trial connected to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The defense team for Mounir el Motassadeq, a Moroccan, has been seeking files that were given to the German government by another nation on a suspected al-Qaida recruiter, Mohammed Haydar Zammar. But the office of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a letter read to the court Tuesday that the material could not be turned over.

"I don't understand this," el Motassadeq told the court. "Why are people shutting away the truth and saying at the same time that I'm the one who doesn't want to tell the truth? This is unfair."

Schroeder's office said the country that gave the material on Zammar had said it would end its cooperation with Germany if the file's contents were read in court, even partially.

"Maybe cooperation between two countries is more important than a human being," el Motassadeq said. "But I don't want to become collateral damage."

El Motassadeq is accused of helping organize logistics, lodging and bank transfers for the Hamburg cell that included three of the suicide hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks. Zammar, a Syrian-born German who is in Syrian custody, is alleged to have recruited the members of the same cell.

The defense hoped that information from Zammar would help el Motassadeq's case. They cited media reports that Zammar told Moroccan authorities that the 28-year-old student knew nothing of the Sept. 11 plot.

Closing arguments in the trial start today.

Plea agreement reached in fake identification case

PATERSON, N.J. -- A man who sold fake identification to two Sept. 11 hijackers tearfully accepted a plea agreement Tuesday and declared he is not a terrorist.

Mohamed el-Atriss, 46, pleaded guilty to a single state count of selling simulated documents and was expected to be released. He had been charged with racketeering and numerous counts of selling false documents after his arrest last summer.

He admitted selling fake documents to Khalid Almihdhar, who was on the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon, and Abdulaziz Alomari, who was aboard one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center.

But he told Judge Marilyn Clark he is not a terrorist. "Never, ever in my life did I have anything to do with any group of terrorists," he said.

The case began with much fanfare in July when Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale brought more than a dozen reporters and photographers along on a raid of el-Atriss' store.

But el-Atriss was nowhere to be found, having flown to Egypt two weeks earlier on vacation. He flew back to the United States to face charges in Paterson.

The FBI investigated el-Atriss but found no terrorist connections.

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