1. Archive

Witness in Germany to link Iran, 9/11

A judge in the trial of a man accused of being a Sept. 11 plotter agreed Thursday to hear last-minute testimony from an Iranian ex-spy claiming to have inside evidence about the plot and about an alliance of al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence.

The former spy also told German federal police he was a longtime double agent for the CIA and had contacted U.S. and French intelligence before the Sept. 11 attacks to warn about an impending al-Qaida strike, according to testimony Thursday.

The description by two German investigators of the Iranian's story drew questions from the judge and defense lawyers, who cast doubt on his trustworthiness. A prosecutor testified that the Iranian has aided German authorities in a separate case involving Iranian spies, but admitted that police are still assessing his credibility as a witness against Abdelgahni Mzoudi, a Moroccan associate of the hijackers based in Hamburg.

Judge Klaus Ruehle said the new witness would testify next Thursday. The former spy is between 30 and 35, goes by the alias Hamid Reza Zakeri, and has given several interviews to journalists since fleeing Iran in July 2001, according to testimony.

But it was not clear if Reza would actually take the stand. Prosecutors said they want to ensure that they can protect his anonymity.

The day was originally set for announcement of the verdict. Mzoudi, who is charged as an accessory to murder, allegedly trained at an al-Qaida camp and later paid bills and helped provide apartments for the Hamburg hijackers, prosecutors charge.

Reza told police that a top Iranian intelligence official last month identified Mzoudi as a communications specialist for the Hamburg plotters, according to testimony. Defense lawyers scoffed.

The defense cited a U.S. magazine article that quoted a U.S. intelligence official describing Reza as "a fabricator of monumental proportions."

Nonetheless, German prosecutors consider him a strong enough witness to publicly pin their hopes for a conviction on him. While Western counterterror officials have accused Iran of harboring al-Qaida figures after the Sept. 11 attacks, Reza alleges that an alliance teaming al-Qaida with Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors intensified before the attacks, according to testimony.

Reza told police that Iranian agents met in January and May 2001 with al-Qaida leaders including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Saad bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden. After the meetings, Iranian agents and a unit led by Imad Mugineyeh, a Hezbollah chieftain present at the meetings, said a major attack was in the works, according to Reza's account. Reza says his boss told him the date would be Sept. 10 or 11, according to police.