HAMBURG, Germany (AP) – A Moroccan student was convicted yesterday of more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder for helping Mohamed Atta and two other suicide pilots in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, ending the first trial connected to the suicide hijackings.
Mounir el Motassadeq was sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison for helping the Hamburg-based al-Qaida terror cell that included Atta, the lead hijacker and two other suicide pilots.
In addition to the 3,045 counts of accessory to murder, he was convicted of five counts of attempted murder and bodily injury. El Motassadeq denied the charges during his 3 1/2-month trial, and his lawyers had demanded acquittal.
Judge Albrecht Mentz sided with the prosecutors’ argument that a complex mosaic of evidence proved the defendant was “a cog that kept the machinery going.”
“The accused belonged to this group since its inception,” Mentz said in reading the verdict. “He knew and approved the key elements of the planned attacks.”
El Motassadeq has acknowledged knowing six other alleged members of the Hamburg cell – Atta and two other suicide pilots, Ziad Jarrah and Marwan al-Shehhi; and organizers Ramzi Binalshibh, Said Bahaji and Zakariya Essabar. But he says he knew nothing of their plans.
A slight, bearded man, El Motassadeq sat between his lawyers and showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
Prosecutors allege el Motassadeq used his power of attorney over al-Shehhi’s bank account to pay rent, tuition and utility bills, allowing the plotters to keep up the appearance of being normal students in Germany.