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German Court Acquits September 11 Suspect - 2004-02-05

A court in Germany has acquitted a Moroccan man who was accused of helping organize the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The judge told defendant Abdelghani Mzoudi he was acquitted, not because the court was convinced of his innocence, but rather because his guilt could not be proven.

The 31-year-old Moroccan student was cleared of the charge of being an accessory in the murders of more than 3,000 people in New York and Washington in 2001. He was also cleared of the lesser charge of being a member of the Hamburg terror cell thought to have organized the attacks.

Prosecutors claimed he provided logistical support for the Hamburg cell of the al-Qaida terrorist network, including arranging housing and handling financial transactions. The cell's chief, Mohammed Atta, was the leader of the September 11 attacks.

Mr. Mzoudi's lawyers denied the charges, saying he was friends with some of the hijackers, but did not help them and did not know about their plan.

Mr. Mzoudi faced 15 years in jail if he had been convicted. He showed no immediate reaction as the verdict was handed down.

The verdict in the 5.5 month trial was due last week, but it was delayed after a new witness came forward. The verdict was also delayed after a last minute appeal from a lawyer for the victims of the attacks. The lawyer said he had new evidence that would incriminate Mr. Mzoudi. But the judge said that was unlikely.

Prosecutors were disappointed they failed to convict Mr. Mzoudi. He had been freed from prison in December when the court heard evidence it said clearly exonerated him, but the trial had continued.

Mr. Mzoudi is the second man to be tried in Germany in connection with the September 11 attacks. Last February, Mounir el Motassadeq became the first man to be convicted for his part in the attacks. He received a 15-year sentence.