A GERMAN court has quashed the only conviction made in connection with the September 11 terror attacks.
The Federal Criminal Court ruled that Moroccan Mounir el Motassadeq’s case should be sent back to a lower court "for a new trial and decision".
Last year, a court ruled that el Motassadeq was a member of a cell of al-Qaida suicide hijackers based at Hamburg University.
Another Moroccan man, Abdelghani Mzoudi, was acquitted a month ago on similar charges.
El Motassadeq was originally convicted on more than 3000 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organisation. The 29-year-old’s case was sent back to a lower Hamburg court. "The case is to be sent back to another panel of judges at the Hamburg court for a new trial and decision," presiding judge Klaus Tolksdorf said.
El Motassadeq is serving a 15-year prison sentence after a Hamburg court convicted him in February 2003 of giving logistical support to the Hamburg-based al-Qaida cell that included September 11 suicide hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.
An electrical engineering student, el Motassadeq has denied the charges. His lawyers had asked the appeals court for acquittal or a retrial, alleging el Motassadeq was wrongly convicted because the United States refused to allow court testimony by Ramzi Binalshibh, thought to be the Hamburg cell’s key contact with al-Qaida.
Binalshibh was captured in Pakistan on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks and is in secret US custody.
Today’s ruling is a new setback for German prosecutors after the Hamburg court last month acquitted Mzoudi of identical charges for lack of evidence.
• The SNP is to put Tony Blair on the spot over his refusal to publish next week Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s advice on whether the war in Iraq was legally justified.
Along with their Welsh nationalist colleagues Plaid Cymru they are to stage a special Commons debate on the issue.