Germany Witnesses Accused of Lying
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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) _ The judge in the trial of a Moroccan man charged with aiding the Sept. 11 terrorists accused two witnesses of lying on the stand Wednesday and threatened to jail them for contempt of court.
The judge issued the warning after Bekim Adeni and Ibrahim Diab recanted statements to police that they met alleged members of an al-Qaida cell in Hamburg while attending terrorist training camps in Afghanistan around the time of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The men did not have information about the defendant, Mounir el Motassadeq, a student accused of providing support to the Sept. 11 hijackers. But prosecutors hoped to use the testimony from Adeni and Diab, along with other witnesses, to establish that the Hamburg cell was part of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
El Motassadeq is charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and with more than 3,000 counts of murder.
To convict el Motassadeq, prosecutors must also prove to the panel of judges that the Moroccan knowingly joined the group and knew its intentions, said Andreas Schulz, a lawyer representing an American widowed in the attacks who has joined the trial as a co-plaintiff.
Both witnesses admitted signing police statements _ Adeni in the company of his attorney, and Diab in the presence of an interpreter.
But the men testified that their statements, which detailed contacts with terrorist planners Said Bahaji and Zakariya Essabar in Afghanistan, were untrue.
Both denied they were pressured to recant their statements. Diab claimed he made his previous statement after German investigators threatened to torture him.
``You’re playing with your freedom, you know,″ presiding Judge Albrecht Mentz told Adeni, a 28-year-old native of Kosovo.
Later, when Mentz admonished Diab, the 22-year-old from Lebanon replied, ``I answer only to Allah.″
``Allah will not keep you from prison,″ Mentz said.
Mentz said both men would have a second chance to testify later before he would jail them for contempt of court.
Diab told the court that he was coerced by federal investigators in Wiesbaden into saying that an alleged member of the Hamburg cell gave him money to train in Afghanistan. He also denied saying that, while at the camp, he saw Bahaji, Essabar and Ramzi Binalshibh, believed by federal authorities to be the chief link to al-Qaida.
``They said they would pull my fingernails out and put my feet in hot water,″ Diab said. Then, pointing toward prosecutor Kai Lohse, Diab said, ``He said we’ll put you in prison in the east where the Nazis are and also your sister.″
Adeni testified he never admitted seeing both Bahaji and Essabar at the camps, despite having signed statements to the contrary, and under cross-examination said he only vaguely recognized Bahaji and Essabar from events in Hamburg.