A key al Qaeda suspect in U.S. custody has said Mounir el-Motassadeq had no knowledge of the 9/11 attack plot.
"A key al Qaeda suspect in U.S. custody has said a Moroccan man on trial in Germany had no knowledge of the September 11 attack plot, according to an interrogation summary.
The summary was read out Wednesday in the Hamburg courtroom where Mounir el-Motassadeq is being retried on charges in connection with the 2001 attack.
He was convicted in 2003 but the verdict was thrown out by an appeals court in March and he was freed in April.
The appeals court said the conviction was unfair because U.S.-held suspects didn’t testify. As El-Motassadeq’s retrial opened Tuesday, Washington pledged to provide evidence but not live testimony from the suspects.
The U.S. Justice Department faxed the German court summaries of the interrogation of two key detainees: Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
Binalshibh, believed to be the Hamburg cell’s contact with al Qaeda, said "the only members of the Hamburg cell were himself, Atta, al-Shehhi and Jarrah," according to the summary, The Associated Press reported.
Binalshibh said "the activities of the Hamburg group were not known to el Motassadeq," the summary added.
The group was "well known by a number of Arab students," but "Binalshibh said that the people in question had no knowledge and were not participants in any facet of the operative plans of September 11."
According to the summary, the Justice Department had "doubts" about some of the testimony, but the summary did not elaborate.
Binalshibh also said that while el-Motassadeq had transferred money on behalf of one of the plotters, he did not know for what purpose, Reuters reported.
Mohammed, who is believed to have masterminded the September 11 plot, told interrogators that Binalshibh had not told Motassadeq of the details for security reasons.
Binalshibh gave interrogators a list of more than a dozen names of people who he said had no knowledge of and did not take part in any aspect of the 9/11 plan. The list included Zacarias Moussaoui, a suspect being held in the United States, Reuters reported.
According to the summary, the Justice Department had "doubts" about some of the testimony, and that the persons interrogated might have withheld information.
German prosecutors have suggested Binalshibh would not be a credible witness because he might lie to protect el Motassadeq.
El-Motassadeq’s lawyers are calling for the Hamburg state court to throw out the case, suggesting that any information gathered by U.S. intelligence services might have been obtained through use of torture.
U.S. authorities have said they cannot provide direct contact with suspects including Binalshibh and Mohammed for national security reasons.
But in el-Motassadeq’s first trial, the U.S. government refused to allow even transcripts of interrogations to be admitted as evidence." – CNN (01/25/05)