Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The difference between Terrorists and Lawyers is...

(Reuters) - Lawyers for a Moroccan man accused in Germany of aiding and abetting the Sept. 11 attacks called Tuesday for President Bush to be summoned as a witness.

Lawyer Udo Jacob, defending accused Moroccan Mounir El Motassadeq, said Bush should be called to testify about accusations he granted the CIA powers to send terrorism suspects to foreign countries for interrogation.

The United States has already turned down a request for former CIA chief George Tenet to testify at Motassadeq's trial, and there is no prospect of Bush appearing in court.

But Jacob raised the issue to draw attention to the circumstances in which two al Qaeda leaders, whose evidence is central to the case, were captured and interrogated by the United States.

Washington has declined to allow the Hamburg court to question the two men, Ramzi bin al-Shaibah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but has made available summaries of information they revealed under questioning at unknown locations.

The defense alleges both key witnesses were probably tortured and the case against Motassadeq should therefore be dropped. "There is concern about torture during the questioning," Jacob said.

Dietrich Snell, senior counsel with the U.S. commission that investigated the hijacked plane attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001, said it had not been able to meet Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or bin al-Shaibah directly.

He told the court the commission had submitted questions to be put to the men, but had no control over whether and how the questions were asked.

Motassadeq was one of a circle of Arab students living in Hamburg, where he knew Ramzi bin al-Shaibah and others including Mohamed Atta, the man who crashed the first plane into the World Trade Center.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told interrogators he had met Motassadeq in Karachi, Pakistan, when the Moroccan was on his way to an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.

Motassadeq attracted worldwide attention in February 2003 when he became the first person anywhere to be convicted as an accessory in the Sept. 11 attacks. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

But he appealed and won a retrial last year after a higher court ruled that potentially important evidence from al Qaeda captives had not been made available by the United States.