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Prosecutors hit by lack of evidence

Mzoudi arriving at court in January.
Mzoudi arriving at court in January.

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German court acquits Moroccan man accused of helping 9/11 attackers due to lack of evidence.
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HAMBURG, Germany (CNN) -- A Moroccan man accused of assisting the September 11 hijackers has been cleared by a court in the German city of Hamburg due to a lack of evidence. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers explains the background to the case.

Q. How was Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi alleged to have helped the hijackers?

A. German prosecutors believed he gave logistical support to the Hamburg terror cell. They argued that using bank credit cards, he helped the hijackers obtain cash and they alleged he helped the members of the terror cell acquire accommodation.

Mzoudi acknowledges he befriended Mohamed Atta, a ringleader who piloted one of the aircraft into the World Trade Center. He acknowledged he co-signed Atta's last will and testament before Atta died. They also at one time used the same Hamburg apartment building. But under the rules of evidence, friendship with the hijackers did not translate into cooperation in a conspiracy or foreknowledge of a terror plot, according to German justice.

Q. Does this mean justice has been done?

A. German law enforcement officers are still convinced Mzoudi was deeply involved in Islamist activities here in Hamburg where there was a major terror cell in the 9/11 attacks. German prosecutors' problem was they had scant evidence that Mzoudi had foreknowledge of the conspiracy.

Also the German court received information from a prisoner said to be in U.S. custody that Mzoudi may not have known the details of the 9/11 terror attack. All of this greatly displeases the families of the 9/11 victims. They were represented in the Mzoudi case and their lawyer asked for a postponement of a verdict of acquittal because he alleged there was more information in the hands of the U.S. Justice Department which might yet secure a conviction of Mzoudi.

But the five-judge German panel was not agreeable to a postponement of the verdict and even the German prosecutors were skeptical that the U.S. Department of Justice would be any more forthcoming in the future in a manner that would justify postponement.

Q. What is next for Mzoudi?

A. One of his attorneys, Michael Rosenthal, says Mzoudi is now happy to return to technical school where he has one year left in his pursuit of a degree in electrical engineering.

German prosecutors are not eager to deport Mzoudi because they are appealing against the lower court acquittal and want him kept in Germany. That is good news for Mzoudi who feared he might be deported to his native Morocco where he feared the Americans might try to snatch him, according to Rosenthal.

Q. How does this affect the war on terror?

A. Western courts have so far only been able to convict one person as an accomplice in the 9/11 terror plot. Mounir el Motassadeq was convicted as part of the Hamburg terror cell but the evidence used to convict him was remarkably similar to the evidence which was discounted by a five-judge German panel in the Mzoudi case. Now, Motassedeq is filing an appeal that could also result in his release.

With Mzoudi acquitted, and if Motassadeq's conviction was overturned, that would mean no Western law enforcement agencies have been able to convict anyone in relation to the 9/11 suicide hijackings, and that leaves the dubious conclusion that the 19 dead hijackers committed the terrorist acts all by themselves, with no assistance from anyone still alive.

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