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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Moussaoui Loses Appeal

(CN) - The 4th Circuit upheld the conviction of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to stand trial in a U.S. court for his role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The court rejected his claims that he was denied access to evidence and the right to select his own attorney.

Moussaoui was found guilty of six criminal conspiracy charges for his involvement in the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

Moussaoui demanded a retrial or resentencing, claiming he had been deprived of his rights, because his attorney could not talk to him about classified evidence that could help his defense.

The three-judge panel wasn't convinced.

"The right to communicate with counsel at any point in the proceeding is not absolute," Judge William Traxler wrote.

The court also affirmed the finding that Moussaoui was competent enough to enter a guilty plea.

"Moussaoui has a view that is significantly and culturally different from ours, but there is nothing to indicate that the district court's observations should have reasonably caused it to believe that Moussaoui was suffering from a mental disease or defect that interfered with his ability to understand the nature and consequences of entering a plea of guilty," Traxler wrote.

Moussaoui also claimed that he was unaware of the charges against him, saying the indictment charged him only with participation in the Sept. 11 attacks as a hijacker.

But the 4th Circuit said Moussaoui had been informed that the charges included the entire al-Qaida terrorist plot.

"We affirm Moussaoui's convictions and sentences in their entirety," the ruling states. Moussaoui "has failed to demonstrate that the government withheld exculpatory material that would have caused Moussaoui to forego his guilty plea and proceed to trial, much less evidence of his actual innocence," Traxler concluded.

Moussaoui, a French citizen, was arrested in August 2001 for overstaying his visa after his flight instructor in Minnesota grew suspicious.

In 2006 he was convicted of conspiracy to commit international acts of terrorism, conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy, conspiracy to destroy aircraft, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to murder U.S. employees and conspiracy to destroy U.S. property.

He is serving six consecutive life sentences in a federal prison in Colorado.

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