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Moussaoui turns on defence team

Confessed 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui has lashed out at his own defence team after taking the witness stand in his death-penalty trial.

Last Modified: 13 Apr 2006 19:28 GMT
Moussaoui accused his lawyers of 'criminal non-assistance'

Confessed 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui has lashed out at his own defence team after taking the witness stand in his death-penalty trial.

"You have put your vested interest in keeping this case in your hands, above my interest to save my life," Moussaoui said on Thursday in response to questions from defence lawyer Gerald Zerkin.

Zerkin had asked Moussaoui if he believed his court-appointed defence team was in a conspiracy to kill him.

Moussaoui responded that they had been engaged in "criminal non-assistance".

Specifically, he said, the lawyers should have sought a change of venue from Virginia because jurors there were more likely to give the death penalty because of the proximity of the Pentagon, one of the targets of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

One of the first motions Moussaoui filed when he won the right to represent himself in 2002 was seeking a change of venue.

Moussaoui also said he no longer wanted to be executed as the death penalty was not in line with Islamic teaching, but doubted that his testimony held any sway with the jurors considering his sentence.

'Speak the truth'

The Pentagon on 9/11 after a
hijacked jet crashed into it

Moussaoui pulled back from statements made several times over the past four years that indicated he would welcome a death sentence.

Zerkin showed him a filing he made to the court in August 2002 in which he said the "greatest jihad in Islam is to speak the truth in front of the tyrant and be executed for it".

Moussaoui said he no longer wanted to include the "and be executed" part of that statement, because he had consulted Islamic books and decided that violated Muslim religious beliefs.

He said his defence team's strategy should have included the argument that jail was a better punishment since execution would reward him with martyrdom.

He also accused Zerkin of blocking his requests for a Muslim lawyer.

"I wanted to have somebody in court who I trust," Moussaoui said.

Defence lawyers have tried to persuade the jury that he is mentally unstable, with delusions of importance in al-Qaeda and should not be sentenced to death.

Fifth plane

Moussaoui said in court last month that he was supposed to fly a fifth plane into the White House as part of the al-Qaeda hijacking plot. This testimony contradicted his previous claims that he was not meant to be part of the 9/11 hijacking, but was supposed to be in a second wave of attacks.

Many observers thought his testimony solidified the prosecution's case that he was involved in the deaths of 3,000 people on September 11.

Moussaoui, dressed in a green prisoner jumpsuit and white cap, said on Thursday his earlier comments had made little difference.

"I thought about ... the consequences for me saying I was a part of 9/11. I decided to just put my trust in God and tell the truth and time will tell," he said.

"Even without my testimony, taking into account the emotion of the case, there was definitely a chance I would be found eligible for death," he said.

He also said he would try to convince a jury that if they sentence him to life instead of executing him, they might be able to save American lives if he could be used as a bargaining chip.

US District Judge Leonie Brinkema allowed Moussaoui to act as his own lawyer for more than a year early in the case, but eventually revoked the right after he continued to file inflammatory motions with the court attacking her, his lawyers and US officials.

Source:
Agencies
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