Firefighter's widow faces first 9/11 plotter to stand trial
HAMBURG, Germany — In emotional testimony Thursday at the first trial of a Sept. 11 suspect, Americans who lost family in the terror attacks urged a court to impose the maximum sentence, life in prison, if it convicts a student accused of aiding the hijackers.
Maureen Fanning, her voice choking with emotion, was among five relatives of Sept. 11 victims who urged the court to take their suffering into account.
Fanning’s husband, a 54-year-old firefighter, was killed in the collapse of the second World Trade Center tower. Only his helmet was found among the debris.
“The world has to be protected from the suicidal murderous inclinations of the defendant and his friends. ... He needs life imprisonment,” said Fanning.
Stephen Push, whose wife was killed in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, was also among the relatives of victims who have joined the prosecution of Mounir el Motassadeq under provisions in German law that allow relatives of crime victims to review evidence, file motions and question witnesses.
El Motassadeq, 28, allegedly provided logistical support, such as arranging lodging and bank transfers, to members of the Hamburg terror cell that sent three suicide hijackers to carry out the attacks. The Moroccan student faces a possible life sentence if convicted of membership in a terrorist organization and more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder.
Push stifled sobs several times as he talked about what his 42-year-old wife Lisa Raines must have gone through during the last 45 minutes of her life. Unlike some other family members, he never received a final phone call.
“I often lie awake at night wonder if she was injured or in pain during the remainder of the flight,” Push testified.
He described agonizing hours on the telephone confirming she was on the flight, followed by calls to hospitals and her parents. It was two weeks before her remains were identified, Push told the court.
“My life in the last year and a half has had no joy in it. The mere sight of a commercial plane makes me feel sick to my stomach,” he said.
During the testimony, the defendant sat five yards away facing Push, but showed no emotion.
Summing up his remarks, Push told the panel of five judges that he didn’t expect their stories to influence the court’s judgment on el Motassadeq’s guilt or innocence, but that he hoped they would be considered during sentencing.
“I hope you will consider Lisa’s life. I hope you will consider the innocent people who may be victims of the next al Qaida attack. I hope you will not be swayed by any allegation by the defendant that he was only a minor actor when the facts show the contrary,” Push said.