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Ex-Spy Links Iran to Al Qaeda Pre 9/11
Wed Jan 28, 2004 13:56
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Ex-Spy Links Iran to Al Qaeda Pre 9/11, Court Told
Fri Jan 23,10:10 AM ET Add World - Reuters to My Yahoo!


By Jan Schwartz

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Iran's secret service had contacts with Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda network ahead of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, a German court heard Thursday.



Two members of Germany's Federal Criminal Police told a court in Hamburg a former Iranian spy had informed them of the contacts and had also said he tried to warn Washington about the attacks in mid-2001, but the CIA (news - web sites) had not believed him.


The police officers were speaking at the trial of a Moroccan accused of aiding the Sept. 11 attacks.


The Iranian, identified only by his cover name Hamid Reza Zakeri emerged as a surprise witness, postponing the verdict which had been expected to clear the defendant. His credibility is under scrutiny by the presiding judges.


The witness himself was not in court Thursday, but presiding judge Klaus Ruehle read out passages from an interview with him and questioned the two German investigators who had listened to his testimony.


The Iranian said he had been in a department of the Iranian intelligence service that was "responsible for carrying out terrorist attacks globally," one of the officers said.


"In 2001, a delegation with Osama bin Laden's son was in Iran," the officer said, quoting the witness.


The witness has been summoned to appear on Jan. 29 at the trial of Moroccan Abdelghani Mzoudi, accused of aiding the Sept. 11 attackers.


Mzoudi, 31, was expected to be cleared of several thousand counts of aiding and abetting murder and membership of a terror organization in a verdict originally due Thursday, but postponed after the emergence of the Iranian witness.


The sudden new evidence may threaten Mzoudi's chances of acquittal.


MYSTERY WITNESS


The police officers told the court the witness had implicated Mzoudi and had said the Iranian secret service had worked with al Qaeda in 1996 in an attack in Saudi Arabia that killed several U.S. citizens.


He had also said it was an Egyptian, Saif al Adel, the military head of al Qaeda, who planned the Sept. 11 attacks.


Prosecutors say Mzoudi, an electrical engineering student based in Hamburg where three of the suicide pilots had lived, handled money for al Qaeda, helped cover for group members' absence and trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan (news - web sites) himself.


However, he was released from custody after German investigators informed the court of secret testimony which the trial judge presumed to have come from key al Qaeda figure and U.S. captive Ramzi bin al-Shaibah.


That testimony suggested Mzoudi did not belong to the core group of plotters based in Hamburg.


Prosecutors, who are calling for a 15 year jail term, did not say how they had found their new witness only three days before the verdict was due.





German investigators, asked by judges to assess the credibility of the witness, said he had been keen to be paid for his cooperation, although he had not openly demanded money.

Ruehle said he and the other four presiding judges would continue to assess the credibility of the new witness on the trial's next scheduled sitting next Thursday.

He had told them he had left Iran in mid-2001 and warned the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan of the impending attacks, informing officials that he had been employed by the CIA since 1992.

The new witness also referred to what he said was an al Qaeda message urging that Mzoudi "be eliminated" lest he implicate other al Qaeda members.

On the same day, fellow Moroccan Mounir El Motassadeq is also expected to hear whether an appeal against his conviction last February on similar charges has been successful. Motassadeq was sentenced to 15 years, but could win a retrial.

  • Saïf capturé !rou, Thu Sep 11 01:30
    Dans le Monde de ce soir : "Le 1er mars 2003, Khaled Cheikh Mohammed, considéré comme le cerveau des attaques du 11 septembre 2001, est arrêté au petit matin dans la ville pakistanaise de Rawalpindi. ... more
    • Ex-Spy Links Iran to Al Qaeda Pre 9/11 — Saïf, Wed Jan 28 13:56
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