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US to press for Moussaoui death

BBC | April 23 2005

The US government is to seek the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man charged in the US over the 11 September 2001 attacks.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made the announcement after Moussaoui pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.

However, Moussaoui said he was not part of the 9/11 plot itself, but a wider conspiracy to attack the White House.

He has said he will fight the death penalty. The judge has to rule on whether a jury will decide the issue.

'Not 9/11 material'

"We are seeking the death penalty in this case," said the US attorney general.

"The fact that Moussaoui participated in this terrorist conspiracy is no longer in doubt," Alberto Gonzales added.

"Moussaoui and his co-conspirators were responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents on September 11."

Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan birth, appeared before judge Leonie Brinkema at the courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday, to plead guilty to six charges of conspiracy to:

commit acts of terrorism
commit aircraft piracy
destroy aircraft
use weapons of mass destruction
kill US government officials and
destroy US government property.
The first four carry the possibility of the death penalty.

But after pleading guilty, Moussaoui, 36, went on to maintain he was not part of 11 September plot, but was part of a wider conspiracy which involved planning to use a Boeing 747 to attack the White House.

"I'm not 9/11 material," he said.

Moussaoui said he had been personally chosen by Osama Bin Laden in a plot to crash planes into US buildings.

"I came to the United States of America to be part of a conspiracy to use an airplane as a weapon of mass destruction," he said.

"I was being trained on a 747 to eventually use this plane to strike the White House," he said.

And he vowed to fight against the death sentence, expecting "no leniency from the Americans".

"Moussaoui will fight every inch against the death penalty," he told the judge, who has indicated that the sentence might not be appropriate in this case.

Mitigating circumstances

Under US federal law, a sentencing trial has to be held unless Moussaoui and the government agreed to waive it.

Without a jury trial, Judge Brinkema would decide whether Moussaoui is executed.

The judge has not taken a decision on whether to proceed to a jury trial or sentencing.

He said the issue of Moussaoui's denied access to two top al-Qaeda detainees in US jails was "highly relevant to the sentencing phase" and constitutes "mitigating evidence" that could help spare Moussaoui's life.

Moussaoui maintains that Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would confirm he was not involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Moussaoui was arrested a month before the attacks - in which nearly 3,000 people died - on immigration charges, after a flying school in Minnesota reported that he had been acting suspiciously.

Previously he had lived in London on and off for nine years.


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