The second alleged Sept. 11 (searchterrorist to face trial in Germany has been painted as a fanatical Muslim. So his choices for lawyers -- a woman and a Jew -- have raised eyebrows.

 

Abdelghani Mzoudi (searchgoes on trial Thursday in the same Hamburg courtroom where his friend and fellow Moroccan Mounir el Motassadeq (searchwas convicted six months ago.

Michael Rosenthal, a criminal defense lawyer based in the southern city of Karlsruhe, openly discussed his Jewishness with Mzoudi at their first meeting -- having read the indictment that says Mzoudi was part of the group with a "radically anti-American and anti-Jewish position."

"He smiled and said 'I think your problem (with it) is larger than mine,' and we both smiled and got on with it," said Rosenthal, 50. "I liked his reaction and I liked his smile. It obviously didn't matter."

Mzoudi also hired lawyer Guel Pinar, who was challenging Hamburg's decision to use profiling to round up terrorism suspects. Pinar said her client exhibits none of the radical sexism attributed to members of the Hamburg cell of terrorists that dispatched three of the suicide pilots in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"It's just a non-issue," said Pinar, 35.

Mzoudi, 31, faces the same charges as el Motassadeq -- 3,066 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Motassadeq was sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison.

The 61-page indictment accuses Mzoudi of being privy to the hijackers' plans and of taking care of financial matters for alleged cell member Zakariya Essabar, who is wanted by Germany on an international warrant.

He also is accused of helping suspected lead hijacker Mohamed Atta, suicide pilot Marwan al-Shehhi and Binalshibh elude the watch of authorities by finding a room in student housing for the former two "where they stayed unnoticed." He allegedly allowed al-Shehhi and Atta to use his Hamburg mailing address while they took flying lessons in the United States.

But observers say prosecutors are going to have a harder time proving their case against Mzoudi, largely because the original charges of aiding a terrorist organization were only raised to accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization after el Motassadeq's conviction.

Criminal defense lawyers also have more material to mount challenges with the growing knowledge about Al Qaeda.

"All of this together creates a new climate where you can raise the issue of ... reasonable doubt, and this makes the case stronger for the defense than last year," said Berlin lawyer Andreas Schulz.

Schulz is representing American relatives of people killed in the attacks in both trials as a co-prosecutor, as allowed under German law.

In an interview a month after the attacks, Mzoudi admitted being friends with the suicide pilots and other cell members -- whom he met while studying at the Technical University in Hamburg and later at the School for Applied Sciences.

But he denied that he was part of the Sept. 11 plot.

"I was totally shocked when I heard that Atta may have had something to do with the attacks," Mzoudi told Der Spiegel. "I can't imagine a Muslim would do something like that -- a Muslim would never do in children, elderly and women."