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Shady evidence implicates codes expert { January 30 2004 }

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Last Updated: Friday, 30 January, 2004, 17:54 GMT
9/11 suspect 'was codes expert'
A surprise witness has testified that a man accused of aiding the 11 September hijackers was an al-Qaeda code expert.
The witness, who claims to be a former Iranian spy, was called at the last minute, delaying the German court's verdict on Abdelghani Mzoudi.

But German intelligence cast serious doubt on his credibility, saying his evidence "was worth very little".

Mr Mzoudi, a Moroccan, is charged with being an accessory to murder, and with membership of a terrorist organisation.

The prosecution case appeared to be crumbling in December when new evidence from an unidentified informant in the US led the court to release Mr Mzoudi from custody.
The judge said the evidence could exonerate him of the charges related to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

However, prosecutors say it is unreliable, and have asked for the maximum sentence of 15 years in jail.


Their new witness appeared under the alias Hamid Reza Zakeri and said he defected from Iran in July 2001.

He told the court Mr Mzoudi spent three months in 1997 training in an al-Qaeda camp in Iran, learning codes.

"I know from my source that in the 11 September incident he was al-Qaeda's middleman for receiving codes," he said.

Presiding judge Klaus Ruehle tried to get more information on Mr Zakeri's source, but he replied only that he was "very solid" and "very prominent".

Wearing dark glasses and a beard, he refused to give details about himself.

He also gave oblique answers to some questions, prompting the judge to accuse him of being "deliberately unclear".
He repeated claims that he tried to warn the United States before September 2001 that "something would happen".

Later, judge Ruehle read out a statement by Germany's Federal Intelligence Service.

It said Zakeri was probably a former Iranian agent, and they had received "unsubstantiated information form him in 2002 and 2003".

"We have the impression he presents himself as a witness on any theme which can bring him benefit," it continued.

Hamburg cell

The evidence that led to Mr Mzoudi being released from custody last month came in the form of a statement from an unidentified informant saying that there were only four people in the Hamburg cell responsible for the attacks - three pilots and Ramzi Binalshibh who is already in US detention.

The source was not named but the court said it believed it was Mr Binalshibh.

Mr Mzoudi is only the second person anywhere in the world to be tried over the attacks.

Moroccan Mounir al-Motassadek was jailed in Germany in February as an accessory to more than 3,000 murders in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania as a result of 11 September.

The court which convicted Motassadek heard that he was a member of the Hamburg cell which planned the terror attacks.

He was jailed for 15 years, but formally appealed against his conviction on Thursday.

A verdict in the trial of Mr Mzoudi is expected next Thursday.

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