Man, Woman Cleared in German Bomb Plot
HEIDELBERG, Germany (AP) _ A court cleared a Turkish man and his American girlfriend Tuesday of charges that they planned to bomb a U.S. military base in Germany around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, but sentenced the man to 18 months in prison on lesser charges.
Osman Petmezci, 25, was initially charged with planning to attack the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Department or a store on the base in this southwestern city. The base is home to 16,000 U.S. troops and dependents stationed mainly with the Army’s European headquarters and the V Corps’ headquarters.
His girlfriend, Astrid Eyzaguirre, 23, was charged with being an accessory.
Prosecutors conceded Tuesday they lacked evidence to uphold the bomb plot charges against the defendants, who both worked on the base.
But it convicted Petmezci of illegally possessing explosives, theft and unrelated drug violations.
``This wasn’t child’s play,″ Judge Edgar Gramlich told the court, but ``it is a long, long step from making a pipe bomb to carrying out an attack.″
The girlfriend, Eyzaguirre, was acquitted of the explosives charge but given six months’ probation for violating drug laws by growing marijuana.
Prosecutors had sought a two-year and 10-month jail term for Petmezci and a one-year suspended sentence for Eyzaguirre.
German police arrested the couple Sept. 5 on an FBI tip. Investigators found gunpowder and six pipes they believe were intended for making a bomb, and other chemicals that could be used for homemade explosives, at their apartment. They also found a picture of Osama bin Laden.
Prosecutors charged that the couple had anti-American and anti-Israeli views and that they had planned the attack to take place around the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
But the case stumbled last week when a key prosecution witness retracted earlier statements that Eyzaguirre had mentioned two specific bomb targets at the base _ prompting the court to release her from custody.
Judge Gramlich said that while Eyzaguirre had known of her boyfriend’s experiments with explosives, she had not encouraged them or been involved.
``I love Osman, my family and my fatherland,″ Eyzaguirre said in a statement before the verdict.
Petmezci had told the court that he only wanted to make firecrackers.
Prosecutor Joerg Richter maintained that the materials in the apartment made plain that Petmezci wanted to build a pipe bomb, justifying charges of illegally possessing explosives.
But he conceded that the trial evidence was insufficient to uphold charges that the two plotted a bomb attack against U.S. facilities.
Petmezci was found guilty of theft for stealing the chemicals from his workplace, a suburban Heidelberg factory.
In addition, he and Eyzaguirre were charged with drug violations for growing and using marijuana. The couple said they planned to use the proceeds from selling the drugs to finance a move to the United States.