HAMBURG, Germany

Convicted 9-11 conspirator walks free

The only Sept. 11 suspect ever convicted walked out of jail
yesterday smiling and laughing, freed less than 2 1/2 years into a
15-year sentence after judges ruled the evidence was too weak to
hold him pending a retrial.

Mounir el Motassadeq, whose conviction on charges of aiding the
Sept. 11 plotters was overturned last month, seemed euphoric as he
left the Hamburg court building with two friends and his lawyer. He
said nothing but laughed as reporters peppered him with
questions.

The 30-year-old Moroccan, who had been behind bars since his
November 2001 arrest, headed home to his apartment in a Hamburg
suburb to be reunited with his wife and two children.

Explaining their decision, the judges said evidence for the main
charges against el Motassadeq — more than 3,000 counts of
accessory to murder — was no longer “urgent”
because they lack testimony from an al-Qaida suspect in U.S.
custody. El Motassadeq was ordered to stay in Hamburg and report to
police twice a week.

The accessory to murder charges remain in force, along with a
charge of membership in a terrorist organization. But freeing el
Motassadeq was a fresh blow to Sept. 11 prosecutions after the same
court acquitted his friend and fellow Moroccan, Abdelghani Mzoudi,
of identical charges in February.

NGLEWOOD, Calif.

L.A. suburb bars construction of Wal-Mart

Voters rejected a ballot measure that would have cleared the way
for a colossal Wal-Mart in this Los Angeles suburb, one of several
communities across the nation to resist the retailer’s
advances.

Activists who opposed the measure — which would have
allowed Wal Mart to skirt zoning, traffic and environmental reviews
— said it would hurt the community by inviting the
Supercenter to drive out small business and encourage sprawl.

With all 29 precincts and absentee ballots counted late Tuesday
night, Inglewood voters opposed the measure 60.6 percent to 39.3
percent, said Gabby Contreras of the city clerk’s office.
“This is very, very positive for those folks who want to
stand up and … hold this corporate giant responsible,”
said Daniel Tabor, a former City Council member who had campaigned
against the initiative.

Debate raged for weeks in this working-class community.
Opponents said passage would clear the way for Wal-Mart to build a
combination supermarket-retail store next to Hollywood Park
racetrack.

HOUSTON

Wife of Enron exec withdraws guilty plea

The wife of former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow backed out
of a plea bargain yesterday after a federal judge refused to go
along with a sentence of five months in prison and five months of
home confinement.

The proposed sentence for Lea Fastow had been carefully worked
out as part of a larger plea agreement involving her
husband’s criminal case. But prosecutors said her decision
will not affect his part of the bargain, which calls for up to 10
years in prison for conspiracy.

Lea Fastow, 42, withdrew her guilty plea to a tax crime after
U.S. District Judge David Hittner said he wanted a sentence of
between 10 and 16 months. The judge did not specify whether he
wanted a combination of prison and home confinement.

IENNA, Austria

Iran to start nuclear reactor construction

Iran will start building a nuclear reactor in June that can
produce weapons-grade plutonium, diplomats said yesterday. Although
Tehran insists the heavy water facility is for research, the
decision heightens concern about its nuclear ambitions.

One diplomat said the planned 40-megawatt reactor could produce
enough plutonium for a nuclear weapon each year, an amount experts
commonly say is 8.8 pounds. The diplomats said Iran told the U.N.
nuclear watchdog agency last year of its plans to build a reactor,
and Iranian officials have previously suggested it was already
being built.

The diplomats said construction had not yet begun and that
Iranian officials announced the June start date for the first time
during talks Tuesday.

WASHINGTON

Agency issues first private rocket license

The government announced yesterday that it has issued the first
license for a manned suborbital rocket, a step toward opening space
flight to private individuals for the first time.

The Federal Aviation Administration gave a one-year license to
Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif., headed by Burt Rutan. He is
best known for designing the Voyager airplane that made the first
nonstop, unrefueled flight around the world in 1986. “This is
a big step,” FAA spokesman Henry Price said.

The Scaled Composites craft consists of a rocket plane and a jet
designed to carry it aloft for a high-altitude launch.

Compiled from Daily wire reports

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