Garnaoui’s trial is reminiscent of the mafia trials of the early Sixties, what with the witness amnesia, missing evidence, etc. The European bungling reported here reminds me of the Yee, Al-Arian, and Mayfield cases stateside. From the Washington Post, :
BERLIN — The defendant, a Tunisian man with a bushy beard, sits inside a bulletproof glass box in the courtroom. Since his arrest more than a year ago, German authorities have declared the suspect, Ihsan Garnaoui, to be a terrorist and a threat to national security, a man who plotted attacks against U.S. and Jewish targets here.
But since his trial began earlier this month, prosecutors have struggled to make their accusations stick. Witnesses for the state have displayed shaky memories. Security officials have refused to allow two confidential informants to take the stand. And a key police report is missing.
At the same time, European authorities have been less aggressive than American investigators in the pursuit of some well-known radicals.
U.S. officials unsealed a federal grand jury indictment last week against Abu Hamza Masri, a radical London cleric, accusing him of orchestrating a hostage-taking plot in Yemen, among other crimes. The case involved the 1998 kidnapping of 16 Western tourists, a dozen of whom were British.
British officials have long considered Hamza a public menace because of his outspoken support for al Qaeda and have sought to strip him of his citizenship, possibly so he could be deported. But they have never been able to develop a criminal case against him, or to take him into custody until last week. And that was only in response to a U.S. request for his extradition.
On Friday, British Home Secretary David Blunkett said U.S. officials had simply been able to assemble more evidence against Hamza. “If we had that evidence and it related to our country,” Blunkett told BBC radio, “we would have been able to take action through our courts.”
In Germany, where the government estimates that more than 30,000 people belong to radical Islamic groups, the biggest targets have similarly remained beyond the reach of the law.
A German court last year did convict a Moroccan man, Mounir Motassadeq, of more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder for aiding the Hamburg al Qaeda cell that carried out the Sept. 11 hijackings. But that verdict was overturned in March by federal appellate judges, who ruled that he was denied a fair trial and deserved a new one. Another alleged 9/11 accomplice, Abdelghani Mzoudi, was acquitted outright in February.
In the Motassadeq case, the appellate court threw out the verdict in part because U.S. officials would not allow testimony or interrogation transcripts from Ramzi Binalshibh, an al Qaeda leader and accused ringleader of the Sept. 11 plot. The defendant’s lawyers had argued that Binalshibh could have verified that their client was unaware of the hijackers’ plans.
As a result, some Germans have blamed the United States for the outcome of the case and the fact that Motassadeq remains a free man.
“We have a huge problem with the behavior of the U.S. authorities,” said Ulrich von Jeinsen, an attorney representing Americans who lost family members in the Sept. 11 attacks. “It is a question to the American side: What are they willing to give us? It is simple and easy. We will have a reluctance [to pursue other cases in court] unless we have an exchange of cooperation among intelligence services.”
Some legal experts, however, said German prosecutors and intelligence agencies should be held at least equally accountable. Christoph Safferling, a criminal law professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said the appellate judges wanted to send a signal that the German judiciary should be more skeptical of evidence in future terrorism cases.
“When you read the decision handed down, it is in some passages quite angry,” Safferling said, referring to the overturning of the Motassadeq verdict. “It is quite angry that this person was convicted on such weak evidence, and also very angry with the intelligence services’ [lack of] cooperation.” …
Public sentiment is building to change laws in an attempt to bolster security. An April poll by the Allensbach Institute found that 57 percent of Germans surveyed feared that there would be terrorist attacks in the country in the near future, the highest level recorded by the firm since shortly after the Sept. 11 hijackings.
Last week, after years of debate, German political leaders reached a compromise on a new immigration policy that among other things will make it easier for the government to deport terrorism suspects and keep them under closer surveillance.
“It needs to be possible to remove these people from Germany,” said Reinhard Grindel, a member of the German Parliament from the opposition Christian Democrats. “There were holes in the laws here, and [the new immigration law] will now close them. The political consequence is that these people will no longer be able to stay in Germany.”