Skip to comments.Defector Testifies Against Terror Suspect
Posted on 01/31/2004 3:14:47 PM PST by Lessismore
Mzoudi was a liaison to al Qaeda, witness said.
A man claiming to be a former Iranian spy testified Friday that Abdelghani Mzoudi, the second man to be tried for an alleged role in the Sept. 11 attacks, was involved in the preparations to hit the World Trade Center.
The witness, who goes by the alias Hamid Reza Zakeri, took the stand at the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court in Hamburg and claimed that Mzoudi, was "responsible for part of the organization" of the suicide attacks that destroyed the twin towers in New York and damaged the Pentagon. Zakeri testified Mzoudi acted as a liaison to the al Qaeda terror network and was responsible for receiving codes from operatives.
Mzoudi, a 31-year-old Moroccan national who at one time lived in Sept. 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta's apartment and signed his will, faces charges of more than three thousand counts of accessory to murder and of being a member of a terrorist organization. Only the second person to go on trial for the attacks, he is suspected of handling money for the Sept. 11 plotters and covering up for them.
Defense attorneys argue that Mzoudi did nothing but help fellow Muslims who were living abroad.
Zakeri, who claims he worked in Iranian intelligence and defected in 2001, told the court that he did not personally know Mzoudi nor had ever seen him. He said his information came from "reliable sources" in Iran, although he declined to name them. According to him, Mzoudi underwent a three-month training course in 1997 in an al Qaeda training camp in Iran where he learned encryption techniques.
Perhaps even more dramatic was Zakeri's testimony that top Iranian officials enjoyed close relationships with al Qaeda leaders and that Iran was aware of preparations for Sept. 11. In earlier statements to German police, Zakeri said Osama Bin Laden's son met with high-ranking Iranian officials in May 2001 and informed them of the planned terrorist attacks.
From the witness stand on Friday, Zakeri told the court that Iran and al Qaeda had discussed a plan to kill Mzoudi last month, so that he could not reveal the Iranians' involvement in Sept. 11.
"They came to the conclusion that Mzoudi would have to be killed by a letter bomb sent from Düsseldorf or Vienna, or if he was deported, that he could then be seized," Zakeri said.
Zakeri's appearance on Friday did little to relieve the wide-spread doubts about his credibility help by Western intelligence sources. His answers to most questions were evasive and rambling, according to those in the court. During more than three hours of testimony, Judge Rühle often had to ask Zakeri to repeat himself. At one point after several contradictions and incomprehensible answers, Rühle said: "I don't know if you are consciously being unclear."
Earlier this week, Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharazzi, described Zakeri as a "swindler" and said the claims of a connection between Iran and al Qaeda were without foundation.
Mzoudi's trial, which started in August, has seen several dramatic twists and turns. In mid-December Judge Rühle suddenly released Mzoudi from custody, saying new information from an unnamed informant that could exonerate him. According to the information the court received, the informant testified that Mzoudi did not play a role in Sept. 11 and was not informed of the attacks as they were being planned. That information is believed to have come from Ramzi Binalshibh, a suspected al Qaeda operative who is in U.S. custody.
Although Mzoudi was no longer "urgently suspected," his trial continued after his release and he was required to attend or face possible re-arrest. However, most observers said the case against him had all but collapsed. On Jan 21, just one day before the expected acquittal was to be handed down, prosecutors brought forth Zakeri and secured a last-minute delay.
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