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Context of 'March 3, 2004: US Secrecy Leads to Overturning Conviction of Hijacker Associate El Motassadeq'

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Mounir El Motassadeq.Mounir El Motassadeq. [Source: Associated Press]A German inquiry into Mounir El Motassadeq, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, begins by this date. Although Germany will not reveal details, documents show that by August 1998, El Motassadeq is under surveillance. “The trail soon [leads] to most of the main [Hamburg] participants” in 9/11. Surveillance records El Motassadeq and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who had already been identified by police as a suspected extremist, as they meet at the Hamburg home of Said Bahaji on August 29, 1998. Files show that investigators are aware of who Bahaji is by this time.(Bahaji will soon move into an apartment with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and other al-Qaeda members (see November 1, 1998-February 2001.) German police monitor several other meetings between El Motassadeq and Zammar in the following months. [New York Times, 1/18/2003] El Motassadeq will later be sentenced to 15 years in prison for membership in al-Qaeda (see August 19, 2005).

Entity Tags: Mounir El Motassadeq, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, German intelligence community, Mohamed Atta, Said Bahaji

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Kay NehmKay Nehm [Source: Generalbundesanwalt]An associate of the hijackers named Mounir El Motassadeq sends $1,000 to an account of Mohamed Atta in Florida. The money is sent from an account of hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Germany for which El Motassadeq has a power of attorney. This transaction is not mentioned by US authorities, but is disclosed by Kay Nehm, a prosecutor in the case against El Motassadeq in Germany. El Motassadeq will later be convicted for membership of al-Qaeda (see August 19, 2005). [Dawn (Karachi), 9/1/2002; CNN, 2/19/2003 Sources: Kay Nehm]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Mounir El Motassadeq, Kay Nehm, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mounir El Motassadeq, an alleged member of Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, is convicted in Germany of accessory to murder in the 9/11 attacks. His is given the maximum sentence of 15 years. [Associated Press, 2/19/2003] El Motassadeq admitted varying degrees of contact with Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Ziad Jarrah, and Zakariya Essabar; admitted he had been given power of attorney over Alshehhi’s bank account; and admitted attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan from May to August 2000 (see May 22 to August 2000); but he claimed he had nothing to do with the 9/11 plot. [New York Times, 10/24/2002] The conviction is the first one related to 9/11, but as the Independent puts it, “there are doubts whether there will ever be a second.” This is because intelligence agencies have been reluctant to turn over evidence, or give access to requested witnesses. In El Motassadeq’s case, his lawyers tried several times unsuccessfully to obtain testimony by two of his friends, bin al-Shibh and Mohammed Haydar Zammar—a lack of evidence that will later become grounds for overturning his conviction. [Independent, 2/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Zakariya Essabar, Said Bahaji, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mounir El Motassadeq, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Germany, Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A German appeals court overturns the conviction of Mounir El Motassadeq after finding that German and US authorities withheld evidence. He had been sentenced to 15 years in prison for involvement in the 9/11 plot. According to the court, a key suspect in US custody, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, had not been allowed to testify. European commentators blame US secrecy, complaining that “the German justice system [is] suffering ‘from the weaknesses of the way America is dealing with 9/11,’ and ‘absolute secrecy leads absolutely certainly to flawed trials.’” [Agence France-Presse, 3/5/2004] The court orders a new trial scheduled to begin later in the year. [Associated Press, 3/4/2004] The release of El Motassadeq (and the acquittal of Mzoudi earlier in the year) means that there is not a single person who has ever been successfully prosecuted for the events of 9/11.

Entity Tags: Germany, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bush administration (43), Mounir El Motassadeq

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Dietrich Snell, the 9/11 Commission’s lead investigator into the origins and role of the Hamburg cell in the 9/11 plot, testifies in the German retrial of Mounir El Motassadeq. Snell tells a panel of judges that the 9/11 Commission concluded the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell members such as Mohamed Atta did not develop the idea of the 9/11 plot on their own, but were recruited by bin Laden during a visit to Afghanistan in late 1999. He claims, “Ultimately, we did not arrive at the conclusion that there was solid evidence of any contact” between the Hamburg cell members and al-Qaeda leaders about the plot before the Hamburg group’s trip to Afghanistan. These findings contradict the prosecutor’s case against El Motassadeq and also run counter to media accounts suggesting the Hamburg cell was involved in the plot before that time. According to German law, prosecutors must prove that important elements of the conspiracy took place in Germany in order to get a conviction. Snell largely fails to explain how the Commission came to that conclusion, saying the sources remain classified. [Washington Post, 3/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Dietrich Snell, 9/11 Commission, Mohamed Atta, Mounir El Motassadeq, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mounir El Motassadeq is convicted in Germany of belonging to a terrorist organization and sentenced to seven years in prison. However, he is acquitted of involvement in the 9/11 plot. He had previously been convicted of such involvement (see February 18, 2003), only to have the ruling overturned later (see March 3, 2004). The verdict was overturned when a judge ruled he was unfairly denied testimony for al-Qaeda suspects in US custody such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh. For the retrial, the US provided summaries from the interrogation of bin al-Shibh and other suspects, but did not make full reports available to the court or allow the prisoners to appear in person for cross-examination. The judge presiding over the retrial criticized the US for failing to give more evidence, saying, “How are we supposed to do justice to our task when important documents are withheld from us?” [Associated Press, 8/19/2005] A former roommate of El Motassadeq testified that Mohamed Atta and bin al-Shibh regularly visited El Motassadeq, and he once overheard him say: “We are going to something big. He said, ‘The Jews will burn; we will dance on their graves.’” [Associated Press, 6/5/2005] However, a 9/11 Commission investigator gave testimony that was very damaging to the prosecution’s argument that the Hamburg cell had a significant role in preparing the plot while in Germany (see March 8, 2005).

Entity Tags: Mounir El Motassadeq, Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mounir El Motassadeq, a former associate of three of the 9/11 hijackers, is convicted of assisting the 9/11 attacks. The conviction is handed down by a federal appeals court in Germany, where El Motassadeq had known the hijackers. El Motassadeq had previously been convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization (see August 19, 2005), but was acquitted on similar charges of assisting the 9/11 attacks (see March 3, 2004). However, the appeals court decides this decision was wrong and that El Motassadeq should be convicted for being an accessory to the murders of the 246 people killed on the airliners on 9/11, although sentence should be imposed by a lower court. El Motassadeq admits having trained in Afghanistan and having known three of the hijackers—Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah—but says he knew nothing of their plans. However, the court finds he did know they intended to crash airliners and assisted the hijackers by transferring money to them and making it seem like they were still attending university in Germany. As El Motassadeq did not know the planned targets, he cannot be convicted of assisting the murders of the thousands of people who died in the World Trade Center and Pentagon. [New York Times, 1/9/2007; Associated Press, 1/9/2007] El Motassadeq will later be sentenced to 15 years in jail for the offense (see January 8, 2007).

Entity Tags: Mounir El Motassadeq

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mounir El Motassadeq, a former associate of three of the 9/11 hijackers, is sentenced to 15 years in prison in Germany. El Motassadeq was convicted of assisting the 9/11 attacks in November (see November 2006) and is currently serving a seven-year sentence for being a member of a terrorist organization (see August 19, 2005). The 15-year sentence is the maximum possible, as the conviction was only as an accessory to the deaths of the 246 people who died on the airliners. As El Motassadeq has already served three years, this period will be deducted from the sentence. Defense lawyers say they will appeal the conviction, and that the case may go all the way to the European Court of Justice. [New York Times, 1/9/2007; Associated Press, 1/9/2007]

Entity Tags: Mounir El Motassadeq

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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