updated 7/13/2004 12:17:14 PM ET 2004-07-13T16:17:14

Two suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks will be deported to their native Morocco, authorities said Tuesday, including one who is awaiting a new trial after being sentenced to 15 years for helping the al-Qaida suicide pilots.

Both Abdelghani Mzoudi and Mounir el Motassadeq were served with the notice Monday, said Interior Ministry spokesman Marco Haase, the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy process that will take place only after all the appeals in their cases go through.

Mzoudi, 31, was acquitted in February on more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization — a verdict that was aided in part by the U.S. refusal to allow a key witness to testify. That witness, Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni in U.S. custody, is believed to have been the Hamburg cell’s key contact with al-Qaida.

Acquittal appealed
German federal prosecutors have appealed the Mzoudi verdict but no date has been set by the Federal Court of Justice to hear the case.

El Motassadeq, 30, was convicted in 2003 of providing logistical help to the Hamburg al-Qaida cell that included suicide pilots Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison on the same charges that Mzoudi faced.

He won a retrial in March, however, after appeals judges ruled he was unfairly denied testimony from Binalshibh. Judges freed el Motassadeq from prison at the same time, saying there was no longer enough evidence to hold him pending his retrial, scheduled to start in August.

The Interior Ministry said it is also seeking to deport the men on the grounds that they came to Germany as students but are no longer in school.

Deportation to be appealed
Hartmut Jacobi, who represents both men on matters concerning their status in Germany, said he would appeal the deportation order.

“It could be that this ends up going to the Federal Administrative Court,” Germany’s highest, Haase said.

Mzoudi’s defense attorney, Michael Rosenthal, said he doubted the attempt to deport his client would be successful.

“One can’t read from the verdict against Mzoudi that he had anything to do with terrorism,” Rosenthal told The Associated Press. “He went to the mosque and prayed a lot, but nothing else.”

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