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Monday, January 08, 2007

9/11 hijacker friend to be sentenced

A German court on Monday will sentence a Moroccan friend of the September 11 hijackers who was found guilty last year of being an accessory to mass murder, the court said today.

Mounir El Motassadeq, a member of a group of radical Arab students in Hamburg who organised the 2001 attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died, faces up to 15 years in prison.

Germany's top appeals court in Karlsruhe had in November found Motassadeq guilty of abetting the murder of 246 passengers and crew who died on four planes that crashed on September 11, 2001.

Lawyers for the Moroccan had demanded the suspension of the first hearing in Hamburg today, at which Motassadeq was present. His lawyer accused the court of being unconstitutional because it was set up specifically for the hearing.

''We are dealing with an extraordinary court which has been formed exclusively for El Motassadeq,'' Ladislav Anisic told German broadcaster N24.

''What is happening here goes against our constitution.'' Motassadeq, 32, is one of only two people convicted of involvement in the September 11 attacks.

The other is Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a US court in May 2006.

Last November's decision overturned a 2005 ruling which convicted him of belonging to a terrorist organisation while clearing him of abetting mass murder.

Motassadeq's lawyers insist he knew nothing about the plot to fly hijacked planes into the New York and Washington targets.

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