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'Al-Qaeda man' wins German appeal

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'Al-Qaeda man' wins German appeal

Germany's highest court has ordered the release of a German-Syrian businessman suspected of funding al-Qaeda, who was fighting extradition to Spain.

The federal constitutional court ruled that the new European arrest warrant was invalid in the case of Mamoun Darkazanli, 46.

He was detained in Hamburg in October on the warrant issued by Spain.

He appears in a 1999 wedding video with two of the three 11 September suicide hijackers who had lived in Hamburg.

Mr Darkazanli has not been charged in Germany, whose constitution prohibits the extradition of its own citizens.

German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said the court ruling was "a blow for the government in its efforts and fight against terrorism".

Spanish wanted list

After the September 2001 attacks, the US froze the assets of Mr Darkazanli's Import-Export Company, saying it was a front for terrorism. He is among 41 suspects, including Osama bin Laden, indicted by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon.

His case was a test of the new European arrest warrant, introduced last year to speed up the handover of terror suspects.

Correspondents say all other suspects in Germany facing extradition under similar warrants will have to be released on bail, and that the German parliament will have to pass a new law if suspects are to be held in jail on EU warrants.

Mr Darkazanli's lawyers argued that handing him over under the European arrest warrant would be against the German constitution.

He has always denied any involvement in terrorism, saying he only knew the 9/11 hijackers by sight.

A spokesman for the European Commission voiced regret that Germany had failed to implement the arrest warrant and urged it to bring its national legislation into line with EU policy.

But Martin Selmayr also insisted that the arrest warrant was still valid.

"From a first reading, it's a judgment that declares null and void the German implementation law, not the European arrest warrant," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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