Germany has deported a Moroccan man who took part in the 9/11 terror attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Mounir el-Motassadeq, 44, has been imprisoned for almost 15 years in Germany for the role he played in the deaths of passengers on the planes hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001. He was handed the maximum sentence of 15 years in 2007 for his part in the plots that killed nearly 3,000 people, although he has always denied his involvement.
After serving almost his entire sentence, German authorities deported him to Morocco on Oct. 15. Photographs showed him with covered eyes being led away by two armed policemen to a helicopter.
He is now banned from re-entering Germany until April 2064, when he will be 90 years old.
“This measure will allow us to arrest him immediately, should he set foot on German soil again,” Frauke Köhler, a spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutors Office, told Deutsche Welle.
Motassadeq is one of only two people to be convicted for their involvement in the terror attacks.
At his 2007 trial, prosecutors said he was friends with Mohammed Atta, the alleged pilot of one of the planes used in the attacks, and that he knew other people who were part of an al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, northern Germany.
It isn’t known how much he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks or to what degree he was involved.
Accomplice to 9/11 Attacks
He has admitted to being at an al-Qaeda camp and to signing Atta’s will. He also organized bank transfers for some of the Hamburg cell’s members, which prosecutors said meant he ran the group’s financial affairs.
Motassadeq controlled the bank account of Marwan al-Shehhi, who is alleged to have flown another of the planes in the attack.
Because of these links, prosecutors said Motassadeq was an accomplice in the attacks.
Motassadeq claims he was only carrying out favors for his friends.
He told Irish author Anthony Summers, who interviewed him for a book about the attacks, that he only learned his friends were involved when he saw them on TV. He also expressed doubt that his friends were actually responsible for the attacks.
“I don’t know if they really, knowingly, did it out of conviction, or if someone was behind them. This is a question that needs to be answered,” he said.
He was originally given a 15-year sentence in 2003 that was overturned in 2004 by the German Supreme Court.
In 2006, he was sentenced under a charge of being a member of a terrorist organization, but following a 2007 appeal was found guilty of accessory to murder and sentenced to the maximum 15 years under German law.
Now, Motassadeq has been deported and it isn’t clear what will happen to him in Morocco, although he is likely to be closely monitored.
Phil Gurski, a former strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community, told Deutsche Welle that the Moroccan government will probably pass information about him to the United States.
Gurski thinks that Motassadeq could be a “very high-profile propaganda figure” for al-Qaeda.
“Al-Qaeda can point to him as someone who fought the good fight and in the end, because of his good faith and his strong belief in what al-Qaeda was trying to accomplish, he didn’t break, he didn’t give in to authorities, he didn’t betray the other people in his cell,” Gurski said.
Der Spiegel reported that Morocco insisted Motassadeq fly on a commercial passenger flight, chaperoned by police.
“It’s good to know that Mr. Motassadeq is now out of the country so we can close this chapter for Hamburg,” German Interior Minister Andy Grote said in a statement sent to Reuters.