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Germany acquits Carlos the Jackal aide
Updated: 2004-08-24 01:16

A German court on Monday, citing insufficient evidence, acquitted an imprisoned aide of the terrorist Carlos the Jackal of involvement in a deadly series of bombings in France in the early 1980s.

Johannes Weinrich, 57, once headed European operations for Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the man known as Carlos. Weinrich, already serving a life sentence for a 1983 attack on a French cultural center in then-West Berlin that killed one man, will remain in prison.

Undated file picture of terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as 'Carlos The Jackal', who was sentenced to life in prison by a French court in Paris Dec 24, 1997. [AP]
In his second trial, which opened in March 2003, Weinrich was charged with six counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder. He was accused of involvement in twin New Year's Eve blasts at the main train station in Marseille that killed five people in 1983 and a car bombing the previous year in Paris that killed a passer-by.

Prosecutors had sought a second life sentence, but the judges ruled that the evidence was "incomplete." Thousands of pages were missing from documents provided by France, and potential witnesses in Jordan and Cuba were not allowed to come to Germany to testify, presiding Judge Ralph Ehestaedt said.

"The court was unable to establish clearly whether, and if so in what way, the defendant played a role," the five-judge panel said in its ruling.

Weinrich showed no reaction but took notes behind the security glass of the dock.

Weinrich refused to testify and Carlos was not brought from his French prison cell to give evidence. German authorities said that it would be too much of a security risk. Carlos refused to make any statement to the court unless he was allowed to do so in person.

Carlos' wife, Magdalena Kopp, who at one stage was Weinrich's lover, also refused to testify. Prosecutors believed some of the attacks in the case were unsuccessful attempts to pressure France to free Kopp and another associate from prison there.

In acquitting Weinrich, Judge Ehestaedt recalled a German federal court's decision earlier this year to overturn the conviction of a Moroccan suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks because he was denied testimony from key al-Qaida suspects in U.S. custody. Mounir el Motassadeq, accused of aiding the Sept. 11 hijackers, is now being retried in Hamburg.

"Merely belonging to the leadership of a group does not allow for a conviction, because every defendant's individual guilt in a particular act must be proven," Ehestaedt said.

Prosecutors said they were still considering whether to appeal. But Stephan Maigne, a lawyer for victims of the attacks who joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, indicated that they would appeal on the grounds that German authorities blocked "potentially decisive evidence" in refusing to allow Carlos' appearance.

Weinrich, who once topped Germany's most-wanted list, was captured and extradited from Yemen in 1995.

Carlos, a Venezuelan, was arrested in Sudan in 1994 and handed over to France, where he is serving life for the 1975 murders of two French secret agents and an alleged informer.

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