9/11 accomplice deported home to Morocco
A Moroccan man convicted of helping Mohamed Atta and the other Hamburg-based September 11 suicide pilots as they plotted attacks on New York and Washington was deported on Monday from Germany to his homeland.
El Motassadeq was convicted of membership in a terrorist organisation and accessory to the murder of the 246 passengers and crew on the four jetliners used in the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
"It's a good feeling to know that Mr Motassadeq is out of the country," Hamburg's Interior Minister Andy Grote told The Associated Press.
Earlier in the day, he had been taken from a Hamburg prison to a Frankfurt airport.
El Motassadeq was released shortly before completing his 15-year-sentence on the condition that he agreed to be deported to Morocco. That would allow Germany to re-arrest him if he ever returned.
It wasn't immediately clear what awaited him in Morocco.
El Motassadeq was convicted of being part of the so-called Hamburg cell, including Atta and fellow September 11 pilots Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.
German courts ruled that el Motassadeq was aware that the three planned to hijack and crash planes, even though he might not have known specifics of the plot. They said that el Motassadeq helped "watch the attackers' backs and conceal them" by helping them keep up the appearance of being university students paying tuition and rent and transferring money.
El Motassadeq acknowledged training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan but insisted that he knew nothing of his friends' plans to attack the US.
"I swear by God that I did know the attackers were in America," he shouted in accented German at a sentencing hearing. "I swear by God that I did not know what they wanted to do."
Originally arrested in Hamburg in November 2001, el Motassadeq was convicted in 2003 of membership in a terrorist organisation and thousands of counts of accessory to murder -taking into account victims on the ground - becoming the first person convicted anywhere on charges related to September 11. He was sentenced to a maximum 15 years in prison.