Lawyers resort to insanity plea for Moussaoui

26th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, Jan 26, 2006 (AFP) - Lawyers for Zacarias Moussaoui, the French al-Qaeda member who confessed his role in the September 11 attacks, plan to argue their client is mentally ill and the product of a troubled family in a bid to spare him the death penalty, according to court papers.

WASHINGTON, Jan 26, 2006 (AFP) - Lawyers for Zacarias Moussaoui, the French al-Qaeda member who confessed his role in the September 11 attacks, plan to argue their client is mentally ill and the product of a troubled family in a bid to spare him the death penalty, according to court papers.

Moussaoui, 37, is scheduled to be sentenced next month in a US federal court when a jury must decide if he should be executed or imprisoned for life without parole.

His defense lawyers submitted to the court on Tuesday a list of expert witnesses prepared to testify about Moussaoui's upbringing in France by his Moroccan mother, his alienation from society and his mental state.

A neuroscientist and author, Dr Nancy Andreasen, will tell the court that Moussaoui "suffers from a major thought disorder, most likely schizophrenia," the defense lawyers wrote.

Andreasen, chair of psychiatry at the University of Iowa's college of medicine, bases her analysis on Moussaoui's rambling writings, his appearances in court and the findings of another psychiatrist who examined Moussaoui, the lawyers said.

Another witness, clinical social worker Jan Vogelsang, will testify about how Moussaoui had a traumatic childhood, spending five years in orphanages after his mother separated from his "violent alcoholic" father.

"While Zacarias' mother struggled to support her four children in a strange country where she had to learn a new language, Zacarias and his brother basically raised themselves," the lawyers said.

The witness will recount how Moussaoui suffered from racism in France due to his Moroccan heritage and that his condition deteriorated further after moving to Britain. He eventually was attracted to "radical mosques which flourished in London in the 1990's," they said.

The witness will also testify about an alleged history of mental illness in Moussaoui's family.

US law recognizes mental illness as a possible mitigating factor in a death penalty case but the defense strategy may prove difficult given Moussaoui's often defiant attitude during court proceedings. He has also refused a psychiatric examination.

In his trial, Moussaoui showed contempt for the United States and held forth about his belief in Islamic militancy.

Moussaoui is the only person who has been brought to trial in a US civilian court in connection with the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

He initially insisted he was not part of the September 11 plot and that he was to fly another jet into the White House as part of a second wave of attacks.

But he has signed a statement of fact in his guilty plea that identifies him as the "20th hijacker" of September 11, when 19 hijackers smashed passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.

Moussaoui aroused suspicion at a flight school in the state of Minnesota where he was arrested before September 11, 2001 for overstaying his visa.

The sentencing hearing starts with jury selection on February 6.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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