'I THINK MY SON IS SMILING': MOM

By BRIAN BLOMQUIST

N.Y. Post: David Rentas

February 20, 2003 -- WASHINGTON - Relatives of 9/11 victims were thankful - even "thrilled" - by yesterday's conviction of an al Qaeda money man as an accessory to the 3,066 murders committed that day.

"He's only one person, but one's better than none," New Yorker Joan Molinaro said of terrorist Mounir el Motassadeq - the first person found guilty anywhere in the world in the terror attacks.

Molinaro, whose firefighter son, Carl, was killed in the World Trade Center attack, said, "It's justice for my son and 3,000 other victims.

"I'm thrilled," she said. "I kind of feel like, 'OK, Carl, we got one.' I think my son is smiling."

But families still grieving over the Twin Towers tragedy pointed out that el Motassadeq, a member of the Hamburg terror cell that included lead hijacker Mohamed Atta, was sentenced in a German court to just 15 years behind bars.

The 28-year-old electrical-engineering student - who trained in Osama bin Laden terror camps - could become a free man at age 43.

"He should be locked up for life," said Stephen Push, whose wife, Lisa, died in the plane that hit the Pentagon.

Kathy Ashton, of Woodside, Queens, called the sentence "a drop in the bucket, especially for a young man."

"But at least it's something," said Ashton, whose son Tommy, an apprentice electrician, died at the trade center.

El Motassadeq was given the maximum allowable sentence. Under German rules, a 15-year sentence means a minimum of 10 years in jail, although a German official predicted that el Motassadeq would serve the full 15 years.

"German courts are a lot different, and the maximum over there is 15 years, so he got the maximum," said Bill Doyle, whose son, Joseph, was killed in the attack on the Twin Towers.

"In the U.S. courts, more than likely he would have gotten life," said Doyle, of Staten Island.

The families' lawyer said they were pleased by the verdict handed down in Hamburg.

"They wanted justice and they got justice," said Ulrich von Jeinsen, who represented the Americans.

"They accept that we have another system, and since he got the maximum sentence, they will be satisfied."

In contrast, U.S. prosecutors are seeking death against Zacarias Moussaoui, charged with conspiracy to take part in the 9/11 attacks.

German authorities, citing their opposition to the death penalty, have refused to cooperate in certain aspects of the Moussaoui case.

Evidence showed that el Motassadeq, a Moroccan Muslim radical, signed Atta's will and transferred money to suicide hijacker Marwan Al Shehi, who had granted el Motassadeq power to control his German accounts.

German Judge Albrecht Mentz said the defendant "belonged to this group since its inception. He knew and approved the key elements of the planned attacks."

A witness testified that el Motassadeq spoke of burning Jews so he could "dance on their graves."

El Motassadeq admitted knowing six members of the Hamburg cell that plotted the Sept. 11 attacks but claimed he didn't know about their mass-murder plan.

Molinaro was one of five Americans who testified at the trial about the pain of losing their loved ones.

She told the court how she relives her son's death every time she sees footage of the Twin Towers crumbling.

"I lean toward the TV and in my heart and in my mind I scream, 'Carl, run! This time you'll make it out!'

"He never comes out," she said.


http://www.nypost.com/news/nationalnews/54869.htm


BITTERSWEET
Joan Molinari says verdict is "justice for my son and 3,000 other victims."