HAMBURG, Germany (AP) – Federal prosecutors demanded the maximum sentence of 15 years yesterday for the first Sept. 11 terror suspect to be tried, calling the defendant “a cog that kept the machinery going.”

During more than three months of testimony, prosecutors portrayed Moroccan student Mounir el Motassadeq, 28, as an integral part of a terror cell that included lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta.

They said the defendant – who admitted knowing the alleged members of the Hamburg al-Qaida cell but denied knowing about their activities – paid rent and school fees for cell members, thereby helping them maintain the pose of normal student life in Germany.

“He is what we might call a founding member,” chief prosecutor Walter Hemberger told the Hamburg state court as he wrapped up 4 1/2 hours of closing arguments.

“The defendant decided to sacrifice himself to an ideology that despises humanity,” Hemberger said. “He was closely integrated into Atta’s group.”

Prosecutors dismissed el Motassadeq’s insistence that he knew nothing of the plot and said his actions helped drive and conceal the preparations. They called for his conviction on more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder and as a member of a terrorist organization.

They also highlighted that el Motassadeq repeatedly denied having been to Afghanistan but then admitted attending an al-Qaida camp there when he testified at the trial’s opening Sept. 22.

“He built up a construction of lies that has no basis in fact,” prosecutor Ki Lohse said.

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