Report: Fearing death penalty, Berlin to send team to 9-11 trial
Report: Fearing death penalty, Berlin to send team to 9-11 trial
Europe News
Nov 21, 2009, 10:32 GMT

Berlin - The German government is to send observers to New York to ensure that evidence it provided in the case against five men accused of masterminding the September 11, 2001 attacks does not lead to them receiving the death penalty, news magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

On November 13, the US Justice Department announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men would be tried in a federal court - and that the government was seeking the death penalty should they be convicted.

Members of the al-Qaeda cell including Mohamed Atta that led the suicide attacks on New York and Washington were based in the northern German city of Hamburg in the period leading up to the event.

Germany, which does not have a death penalty, has provided items of evidence for the trial on the condition that a possible death sentence would not be based on their materials.

'In this case we will observe very closely that the given assurances (by the US government) are kept,' Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

However, it was not clear how a distinction would, or could, be drawn between German and other evidence leading to a conviction and death penalty.

In the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen serving a life sentence in the US for his failed part in the September 11 attacks, German-provided evidence was only admitted in the first phase of the trial, and not in the preparation of the sentencing.

The defence lawyer for Sheikh Mohammed's co-accused Ramzi Binalshibh said that a conviction of his client would 'scarcely be possible without evidence from Germany.'

A trial based on the Moussaoui example, where German evidence was not admitted in the sentencing phase was an 'artificial distinction, which does not exist in reality,' Speigel quoted Thomas Durkin as saying.