Moroccan on trial in Germany

He admits transferring money to terror suspect

October 24, 2002|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

HAMBURG, Germany - A Moroccan student charged with helping the Sept. 11 hijackers testified yesterday that he moved more than $2,000 from one suspected conspirator's bank account to another's but never asked why.

Mounir el Motassadeq, who is accused of belonging to a terrorist group and being an accessory to the deaths of 3,045 people in New York, the Washington area and western Pennsylvania, also acknowledged lying to investigators about not knowing a suspected suicide pilot because "I was afraid of admitting that."

If convicted, the 28-year-old electrical engineering student could receive a 15-year prison sentence. His trial, in its second day yesterday, is expected to last until spring.

Prosecutors accuse him of serving as a key logistics cog in the al-Qaida cell in Hamburg that planned much of the terrorist operation while its members were enrolled in German colleges. They say he funneled money that was used for pilot training and attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

In court Tuesday, Motassadeq (Moh-tah-SAH-dek) conceded that in May 2000, he left for a three-week training camp near Kandahar, where he learned to shoot Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Yesterday, he acknowledged transferring money in August 2000 from the account of Marwan al Shehhi, who is thought to have piloted the second plane that struck the World Trade Center, to Ramzi Binalshibh, who is thought to have been a key organizer of the attacks.

Motassadeq said his trip to the Osama bin Laden training camp was motivated by an Islamic conviction that believers should know how to use weapons. He also said he had no clue what his friends were doing with the money he transferred.

Answering questions from the five-judge panel that will decide his guilt or innocence, Motassadeq said it was common for foreign students to have control over one another's bank accounts so that bills could be paid when one of them traveled.

The trial will continue next week.

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