Terrorist goes on trial

HAMBURG, Germany – The first person to go on trial for charges in aiding the Sept. 11 hijackers acknowledged Tuesday that he had trained at an al-Qaida terrorist camp in Afghanistan, but denied knowing anything about the suicide attacks his friends were plotting.

Mounir el Motassadeq, a 28-year-old Moroccan engineering student, declared his innocence to the five-judge panel that will rule whether he belonged to the Hamburg cell of Islamic militants that led the attacks, and whether he was an accessory to the murders of 3,045 people in New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania. If convicted, Motassadeq faces up to 15 years in prison.

Kay Nehm, Germany’s top federal prosecutor, has described Motassadeq’s role in the cell as “a cog without whom the thing would not have worked” and has accused him of funneling thousands of dollars to the Sept. 11 pilots, who were his friends and fellow students in the northern German port city.

During a break Tuesday, defense attorney Hans Leistritz said, “Our client was not the paymaster of the attackers in Hamburg, let alone of Osama bin Laden.”

The trial, which could last until spring, is expected to open a window into the