The Only Verdict Possible

The roller-coaster course of the five-month trial against the Moroccan Abdelghani Mzoudi left judges no choice but to acquit him, Deutsche Welle's Peter Phillip writes in his commentary.

photo: AP
Abdelghani Mzoudi besides his attorney Guel Pinar after his acquittal in the Higher Regional Court in Hamburg

​​Abdelghani Mzoudi would have had to be extremely unlucky to be convicted of abetting the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. Germany’s federal prosecutors had charged him with exactly that and blamed the student for playing a role in the deaths of 3,066 people. But the Hamburg judges weren't convinced and they came back with the only verdict that seemed possible after the trial’s somewhat haphazard course: an acquittal.

The trial became unfocused because politics and the legal system kept clashing. Supporting the fight against terrorism wholeheartedly is certainly backed by Germans across the political spectrum, but this consensus starts crumbling as soon as this support requires blindly following the U.S.’s leadership. Especially if such allegiance requires throwing out the founding principles of the constitutional state.

A hastened search for terrorists

Since the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks had stayed in Germany as inconspicuous "sleepers" before the attacks, it was only natural that the German authorities would investigate their surroundings and search for accomplices to put them on trial. One escaped – Ramzi Binalshibh – another, Mounir Al Motassadeq, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Whether this verdict will hold up is more than questionable after Mzoudi’s acquittal. Real proof for Motassadeq’s guilt does not exist. What’s even more significant, much that normally would not have been accepted by a court seems to have been tolerated out of consideration for Washington: The U.S. didn’t offer any legal assistance; they didn’t allow interrogations of Binalshibh or other incarcerated suspects and instead simply handed the German authorities quotes from their own interrogations, according to the sink-or-swim principle.

Prosecutors ridicule themselves

The judge was already so annoyed by this in December that he released Mzoudi from jail. Prosecutors didn’t like this at all and were led to ridicule themselves: One day before the verdict was supposed to be announced, they tried to turn the trial in a different direction by conjuring up an alleged witness. The same happened again on Thursday: hours before the verdict, supposedly new evidence was offered to the court.

The judges stayed their course, as that’s no way to convict someone. Obviously this doesn’t say anything about Mzoudi’s guilt or innocence, nor does it guarantee him a life in freedom. He could be deported to his homeland, where he is likely to be arrested or even extradited to the United States.

Peter Phillip, © DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE 2004

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