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Moussaoui Is Granted Access to Witnesses

Judge says Al Qaeda captives would likely back his claim of innocence in 9/11 plot.

September 04, 2003|From Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — An Al Qaeda captive is likely to testify that Zacarias Moussaoui was not contacted by the network to participate in the Sept. 11 attacks, supporting the suspected terrorist's claim that he was not part of the plot, a federal judge said in an order released Wednesday.

By testifying that Moussaoui was not even contacted about the plot, the witness would go further than the defendant's oft-stated contention that he had no role in the attacks.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema cited the likely testimony to justify giving Moussaoui access to the prisoner for pretrial testimony and possibly as a trial witness. She also granted access to a second Al Qaeda prisoner who would support Moussaoui's contention he was not part of the attack conspiracy.

The names of the prisoners were blacked out in the order written Friday and released Wednesday. News reports last week identified them as a mastermind of the plot, Khalid Shaik Mohammed, and Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi, an alleged paymaster for the 19 hijackers.

One of the witnesses "supports the claim that Moussaoui was not part of the Sept. 11 plot because the defendant was in the United States at the time, but was not contacted," Brinkema said.

This is the second time the judge has granted Moussaoui -- an acknowledged Al Qaeda loyalist -- access to the other captives. The government has contended national security would be irreparably harmed in defying Brinkema's order to produce a witness, former Al Qaeda operative Ramzi Binalshibh.

Brinkema is expected to impose penalties against the government for its defiance, a move that could lead to intervention by a federal appeals court.

Moussaoui is representing himself and also has a team of court-appointed lawyers in the only U.S. prosecution to result from the Sept. 11 attacks.

Moussaoui was indicted in December 2001, charged with participating in a broad conspiracy to commit terrorism. The witness access question has delayed the trial indefinitely.

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