Saving Moussaoui from death hard: attorney

29th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

RICHMOND, Virginia, July 28 (AFP) - Saving Frenchman Zacarias Moussaoui from the death penalty after he confessed to plotting the September 11 attacks will be a tough sell, his attorney said Thursday.

RICHMOND, Virginia, July 28 (AFP) - Saving Frenchman Zacarias Moussaoui from the death penalty after he confessed to plotting the September 11 attacks will be a tough sell, his attorney said Thursday.

It will be "one of the hardest cases to beat the death penalty," Gerry Zerkin told reporters.

"But yes, I think there's a chance."

Moussaoui, who has also confessed loyalty to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is the only person brought to trial in a US civilian court in connection with the attacks.

Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered that selection of a jury to determine his penalty will begin on January 9, and opening statements will begin on February 6, in a US courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty on six charges, four of which could bring the death penalty.

"We will be asking serious questions as to whether he is eligible for the death penalty," Zerkin said.

Government lawyers will have the upper hand "when they show people (jumping) out of the windows of the World Trade Center buildings," he said.

Zerkin said that the US government, backed by the Supreme Court, has refused on grounds of national security to allow the testimony of three accused terrorists, whom Moussaoui says would testify that he was not involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

"In the sentencing phase, the government will have to prove he did something that directly resulted in the death of victims from the 9/11 attacks," Zerkin said.

The official US commission that looked into the attacks said captured Al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told interrogators that Moussaoui was to be used in a loosely-planned "second wave" of attacks.

Despite his insistence that he was not part of the September 11 operation, Moussaoui signed the statement of facts as "the 20th hijacker."

The 36-year-old Frenchman has said bin Laden had chosen him to fly a jet into the White House.

Nineteen men hijacked the four jets and crashed them into the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.

Moussaoui could renew calls to be allowed to question Al-Qaeda leaders kept in secret detention by the United States -- before a jury starts to decide on the penalty.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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