German Court Denied Access to 9/11 Suspect's Statements

The German government again refused Thursday to give lawyers access to statements made to U.S. interrogators by the Hamburg terror cell's suspected Al Qaeda (search) contact.

The decision complies with conditions set by U.S. authorities, who supplied the statements strictly for use by security agencies.

Access to the statements was requested by lawyers defending a Moroccan suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks.

A letter from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search)'s office, dated Oct. 22 and read aloud by the judge presiding over the trial of Abdelghani Mzoudi, says Germany's foreign intelligence agency would be "discredited" if it handed over statements from Ramzi Binalshibh (search).

"The breach of secrecy would make the Federal Intelligence Service appear unreliable worldwide," likely leading foreign agencies to stop supplying information needed to ensure the security of German troops abroad, the letter said.

Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry cited similar reasons for barring the Federal Criminal Office -- Germany's equivalent of the FBI -- from allowing court access to the material.

Mzoudi, 30, is charged with 3,066 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization for allegedly aiding the Hamburg Al Qaeda cell that included hijackers Mohamed Atta, Mohammed al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.

Mzoudi's attorneys have argued that the testimony of Binalshibh -- a Yemeni captured in Pakistan on Sept. 11, 2002, and now in U.S. custody -- is crucial to their client's case. Binalshibh is believed to have been the key contact with Usama bin Laden's organization.

The U.S. Department of Justice already rejected a request for Binalshibh to testify in person. Access to the documents also was denied in the trial of Mounir el Motassadeq, convicted in February on the same charges Mzoudi faces and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Mzoudi attorney Guel Pinar said the defense team was considering a response.

No reply has yet been received to a separate defense request for access to testimony from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected Al Qaeda mastermind of the Sept. 11 plot who also is in U.S. custody.