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Prosecutors Rebuff Moussaoui's Bid for Meeting

April 26, 2002|From Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Zacarias Moussaoui, the man indicted as a Sept. 11 accomplice, tried to speak with prosecutors about the death penalty and classified information but they refused, the government said Thursday.

Prosecutors said they were informed of the request Tuesday by a jail official, an indication that Moussaoui, who wants to represent himself in the case, is already trying to do so.

Moussaoui, however, cannot make that decision on his own. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she will rule after Moussaoui, a French citizen, has a mental examination.

Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers, who remain in the case, were told of the request by government attorneys and have asked Brinkema not to allow the meeting.

They submitted a pleading Thursday contending the government misread the law by making this a death penalty case.

In a written motion, prosecutors said, "Although we believed that it would be legally permissible for us to speak with the defendant, we would not have contact . . . without defense counsel present or without permission from the court."

Moussaoui asked Monday to represent himself, said he prayed for the destruction of the United States and Israel, and accused his lawyers of conspiring with the government for his execution.

The request for a meeting with prosecutors demonstrates the complications set in motion by his request, given the extensive classified information in the case.

If Moussaoui is allowed to represent himself, Brinkema would have to decide how to handle secret material that normally would be provided to defense lawyers with security clearances.

The government has said it would seek Moussaoui's execution if he is convicted of conspiring with the 19 hijackers.

The indictment says his activities mirrored those of the attackers, including taking flying lessons and expressing an interest in crop dusters.

He was arrested in Minnesota when authorities became suspicious of his conduct. He was in custody Sept. 11.

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