updated 12/15/2003 1:27:45 PM ET 2003-12-15T18:27:45

A Hamburg court ruled Monday that the only Sept. 11 suspect ever convicted will remain in prison despite new evidence that freed a fellow Moroccan being tried on the same charges, a lawyer in the case said Monday.

Mounir el Motassadeq was convicted in February of 3,066 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization for helping suicide pilots Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah in their plot. A Hamburg court sentenced him to the maximum 15 years in prison and his appeal will be heard by a federal court in January.

The court did not immediately explain its decision not to release el Motassadeq, said attorney Andreas Schulz, who represents American relatives of Sept. 11 victims in the case.

On Friday, the same panel of judges freed el Motassadeq’s friend Abdelghani Mzoudi for the duration of his trial on the same charges.

The court said Mzoudi had to be given the benefit of the doubt after it received new information from German federal investigators that would exonerate him if true.

The evidence, a statement believed to be from Yemeni Ramzi Binalshibh, said that only Binalshibh — the Hamburg cell’s presumed contact with al-Qaida — and the three Hamburg-based suicide hijackers knew of the plot.

Binalshibh is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location after being arrested in Pakistan on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Prosecutors are appealing the decision.

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