Summing up at the retrial of Mounir El Motassadeq, lawyer Udo Jacob on Friday said his client was "naive, fumbling, contradictory" and lacked the cleverness required of an accomplice.

Convicted at his first trial in 2003, El Motassadeq became the first person anywhere to be found guilty of abetting the US attacks in which pilots flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

But he won an appeal in 2004 and the right to a fresh trial after a higher court ruled that evidence allegedly obtained by the United States from al-Qaida suspects had been withheld by Washington.

El Motassadeq was part of a circle of Arab students in the German port city of Hamburg which included three of the alleged hijackers, but he has always denied knowing of their plans.

Mistakes

Jacob said the Moroccan had made mistakes, including covering up the fact he had allegedly trained in what has been called an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, but cited these as evidence of his naivety.

Mounir El Motassadeq won a
retrial due to lack of evidence

He noted that El Motassadeq had made no attempt to flee Germany, as other members of the Hamburg cell had done. "He could have simply cleared off," the lawyer said.

Prosecutors wound up their case against El Motassadeq on Tuesday by demanding a 15-year jail term, the same sentence he received at his first trial.

For the year-long retrial, the US authorities have released summaries of statements made under interrogation by alleged al-Qaida members including Ramzi bin al-Shaibah, an alleged 11 September mastermind who knew El Motassadeq in Hamburg.

But Washington has refused, on security grounds, to let the German court interview or submit questions to Bin al-Shaibah or other al-Qaida prisoners, a stance which casts doubt over prospects for a conviction. The verdict is expected on 19 August.