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Judge Weighs Dismissing 9/11 Case

Arguments are sought after U.S. refuses to let Zacarias Moussaoui talk to Al Qaeda captives.

September 12, 2003|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — A federal judge asked prosecutors, defense lawyers and alleged Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui on Thursday to give their views on whether she should dismiss the case because the government refuses to make three Al Qaeda captives available for questioning.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema sought the input one day after the government again acknowledged the case could be dismissed because of its refusal to give Moussaoui access to senior Al Qaeda operatives. Brinkema gave the parties until Sept. 25 to weigh in on possible sanctions.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department said national security would be damaged by Brinkema's orders allowing Moussaoui -- the only person charged in the Sept. 11 attacks -- to question the Al Qaeda captives. As a result, the government said, it would not comply with Brinkema's orders.

If Brinkema dismisses the indictment, Moussaoui would likely be tried instead before a military tribunal, which would give him fewer protections, sources close to the case said.

Moussaoui had requested permission to question Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the hijacked plane attacks two years ago; Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, believed to be one of the financiers of the attacks; and Ramzi Binalshibh, the man suspected of coordinating them.

Since the government refused to allow the questioning, Brinkema must issue sanctions. She has the option of dismissing the indictment or imposing some other type of penalty.

Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, was being held on immigration charges when the attacks occurred. He faces the death penalty if convicted on conspiracy charges.

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