updated 6/15/2004 4:10:59 PM ET 2004-06-15T20:10:59

The German prosecutor who headed the investigation into the al-Qaida cell in Hamburg, Germany, has canceled his appearance before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, the panel said Tuesday.

Matthias Krauss was scheduled to testify Wednesday before the 10-member panel as part of a public hearing on the 9/11 plot. He notified the commission during the weekend that he could not attend and declined last-minute overtures to reconsider, the panel said.

The commission declined to comment on the reasons for the cancellation, referring calls to the German Embassy. An official with the embassy did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call.

Krauss, who would have been the first international official to testify before the commission, was expected to highlight problems with U.S. intelligence-sharing and cooperation with the international community in prosecuting terrorist suspects.

Krauss prosecuted the case of Abdelghani Mzoudi, a longtime acquaintance of lead hijacker Mohamed Atta, but lost after a German court cited lack of evidence. The U.S. Justice Department had barred sworn testimony from Ramzi Binalshibh, who allegedly provided money to the hijackers, and other al-Qaida prisoners in American custody on national security grounds.

Prosecutors alleged that Mzoudi provided support to the Hamburg cell, helping with financial transactions and arranging housing for members to evade authorities’ attention. They said Mzoudi spent time at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan in 2000.

In March, a German court also ordered a retrial for Mounir el Motassadeq, the only person convicted as part of the 9/11 plot. The judges said evidence that he aided three Hamburg-based hijackers was too weak, and specifically cited the lack of testimony from Binalshibh, who is in U.S. custody.

Relatives of Sept. 11 victims this week called on the commission to press Krauss on whether U.S. officials were justified in denying access to witnesses, and a commission official says panel members had planned to probe Krauss on intelligence-sharing.

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