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Judge confirms Moussaoui life term

A US judge has formally sentenced Zacarias Moussaoui to life in prison without possibility of release over the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Last Modified: 04 May 2006 15:40 GMT
A jury rejected arguments that Moussaoui be executed

A US judge has formally sentenced Zacarias Moussaoui to life in prison without possibility of release over the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

This comes one day after a jury spared his life and rejected US government arguments that Moussaoui, 37, should be executed.

"God curse America," Moussaoui said just before Leonie Brinkema, the US district judge, imposed the sentence on Thursday. 

"God save Osama bin Laden. You'll never get him," Moussaoui said.

After seven days of deliberation, the jury of nine men and three women on Wednesday rebuffed the government's appeal for death for the only person charged in the US over the four suicide aircraft hijackings that killed nearly 3000 people on September 11, 2001.

The verdict came after four years of legal manoeuvring and a six-week trial that gave the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent a platform to taunt Americans.

It was the sixth case in a row since the death penalty was restored in 1976 in which federal prosecutors in the court in Virginia - near the Pentagon, one of the terrorists' targets - failed to obtain an execution.

Defence

In their successful defence of Moussaoui, his lawyers revealed new levels of pre-attack bungling of intelligence by the FBI and other government agencies.

Moussaoui gloated over the loss
of lives in the 9/11 attacks

By the trial's end, the defence team was portraying its unco-operative client as a delusional schizophrenic.

Lawyers argued that he took the witness stand to claim a role in September 11 that he never had, all to achieve martyrdom through execution or for recognition in history.

They overcame the impact of two appearances by Moussaoui himself, first to renounce his four years of denying any involvement in the attacks and then to gloat over the pain of those who lost friends and family.

Evidence

Using evidence gathered in the largest investigation in US history, prosecutors achieved a preliminary victory last month when the jury found that Moussaoui's lies to federal agents a month before the attacks made him eligible for the death penalty because they kept agents from discovering some of the hijackers.

But even with testimony from nearly four dozen victims and their relatives, the jury was not convinced that Moussaoui, who was in jail on September 11, deserved to die.

The case broke new ground in the understanding of September 11, releasing to the public the first transcript and playing in court the cockpit tape of the last half an hour of United Airlines flight 93.

The tape captured the sounds of the hijacking of the aircraft over Pennsylvania and passengers trying to retake the jet until it crashed in a field.

Source:
AFP
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