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9/11 suspect gets 7 years jail

Motassadeq acquitted of being accessory to Sept. 11 attacks

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HAMBURG, Germany (CNN) -- A German court has convicted a Moroccan man for belonging to a terrorist group, but acquitted him on charges of accessory to murder in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The chief judge sentenced Mounir el-Motassadeq to seven years in prison Friday for being a member of a terrorist organization.

Defense attorneys for el-Motassadeq said they will appeal the conviction -- a process that could take up to 18 months.

He was convicted in 2003 but the verdict was thrown out by an appeals court in March 2004 and he was freed a month later.

The appeals court said the conviction was unfair because U.S.-held suspects did not testify.

El-Motassadeq was accused of providing logistical help to the Hamburg al Qaeda cell that included 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.

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. He also said, "the activities of the Hamburg group were not known to el-Motassadeq."

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."

Mohammed is believed to have masterminded the 9/11 plot, and Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian man, is suspected to have been an al Qaeda contact in Germany.

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. Mohammed told interrogators that Binalshibh had not told el-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.

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 suggested Binalshibh would not be a credible witness because he might lie to protect el-Motassadeq.

U.S. authorities would not 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.

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