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German Court Acquits Person Accused of Aiding 9/11 Attack

By Desmond Butler

The New York Times -- HAMBURG, Germany

Citing a refusal by the United States to allow testimony from a suspected Qaida operative in its custody, a German court on Thursday acquitted a former roommate of Mohamed Atta who was accused of providing support to three of the suicide pilots in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The court cleared Abdelghani Mzoudi, the second suspect to be tried for involvement in the attacks, of accessory to murder and membership in al-Qaida. Mzoudi, 31, who arrived in Germany from his native Morocco in 1995 to study electrical engineering, sat quietly in a colorful ski sweater as the presiding judge, Klaus Ruhle, pronounced him a free man, if not precisely an innocent one.

“You are acquitted,” said the judge, glancing at the defendant, who was allowed to leave jail in December. “Not because the court is convinced of your innocence, but because the evidence was not enough to convict you.”

German prosecutors, who said they would appeal the verdict, had already convicted another former roommate of Mzoudi, Mounir el Motassadeq, on the same charges and based on virtually the same evidence. A German high court is scheduled to rule Mar. 4 on an appeal of that conviction, the first and only one of a Sept. 11 defendant anywhere in the world. Last week, the high court made clear that the new evidence issued in Mzoudi’s trial would be a factor in their decision, which could result in a retrial.

Prosecutors blamed the acquittal on the Bush administration’s reluctance to make captured terrorists available for testimony and to allow prosecutors to make use of intelligence information on the terrorist network. “They must have their reasons, which they did not communicate to us,” said the chief federal prosecutor, Kay Nehm, according to The Associated Press. “I find this conduct by the United States incomprehensible.”