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Terror Trial Judge Wary of TV, Won't Rule It Out

January 10, 2002|From Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A federal judge said Wednesday that she was concerned that television could have a chilling effect on witnesses at the Zacarias Moussaoui terrorism trial, but she did not decide immediately whether to permit cameras.

Lawyers for Moussaoui and the television networks asked U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema to overturn a ban on cameras in federal courtrooms, drawing sharp opposition from prosecutors in a case that will focus on the Al Qaeda organization.

The Justice Department contended a worldwide broadcast "might assist Al Qaeda in retaliating against the witnesses who testify against it."

Moussaoui, a French citizen, sat in his green prison jumpsuit, sometimes cocking his head to one side as he listened to the lawyers. He stands accused of six conspiracy counts of being an accomplice to the Sept. 11 attacks and could receive the death penalty if convicted.

Brinkema pointed to two small cameras to indicate that television would not physically disrupt the courtroom--but also said she was concerned about the potential effect on participants. The cameras on Wednesday provided closed-circuit coverage to an overflow room for those who couldn't find seats.

Televised images of the trial, set to begin Sept. 30, "are forever out there," she said. "It does pose a security risk. If witnesses felt that photographs would be out there, that could be a chilling problem."

The judge said she would rule Tuesday at the earliest.

Moussaoui's lawyer, Edward MacMahon Jr., spoke briefly and supported a televised trial with some restrictions.

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