The only September 11 suspect ever convicted walked out of a Hamburg jail today with a big smile, released less than two-and-a-half years into a 15 year sentence after judges ruled the evidence against him was too weak to hold him pending a retrial.
Explaining their decision, the Hamburg judges said evidence for the main charges against el Motassadeq - more than 3000 counts of accessory to murder - was no longer "urgent" because testimony from an al-Qaeda suspect in US custody was lacking. El Motassadeq was ordered to stay in Hamburg and report to police twice a week.
The accessory to murder charges remain in force, along with a charge of membership in a terrorist organisation. [...] El Motassadeq, 30, has acknowledged training at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and being close friends with Hamburg-based suicide hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah. But he has denied knowing of the plot to attack the United States.
Defence lawyer Josef Graessle-Muenscher predicted the retrial would fail on the same grounds as the first one unless the United States provided more evidence. "I would like the Americans to really open all their books and give all the files and witnesses we need for there to be a chance for a fair trial," he said.