- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

Convicted al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui has told a federal judge that he wants to withdraw his guilty plea in the September 11 attacks and be granted a new trial because “I now see that it is possible that I can receive a fair trial.”

A seven-page motion filed with U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema on Friday but made public yesterday said Moussaoui lied when he testified he was a part of the al Qaeda conspiracy that killed nearly 3,000 people.

“I decided to testify that I had knowledge of and was a member of the plot to hijack planes and crash them into buildings on September 11, 2001, even though I knew that was a complete fabrication,” he said in an affidavit.

“I never met Mohamed Atta and while I may have seen a few of the other hijackers … I never knew them or anything about their operation.”

On Wednesday, a federal jury voted against the death penalty for Moussaoui that had been sought by federal prosecutors, ruling instead that he should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The next day, Judge Brinkema sentenced the 37-year-old French citizen of Moroccan descent to six life sentences, to run as two consecutive life terms, in the federal “supermax prison” at Florence, Colo.

Judge Brinkema, during the sentencing hearing, told Moussaoui that he could not appeal the conviction because he waived that right when he pleaded guilty in April 2005 to conspiring to hijack planes that struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. She said he could appeal the sentence, but told him that it would be “an act of futility.”

Moussaoui told the judge that he was “extremely surprised” when the jury did not return a death verdict “because I knew that it was the intention of the American justice system to put me to death.”

He said he thought he would be executed “based on the emotions and anger toward me for the deaths of September 11.”

“But after reviewing the jury verdict and reading how the jurors set aside their emotions and disgust for me and focused on the evidence and the law that was presented during the trial, I came to understand that the jury process was more complex than I assumed,” he said in the affidavit.

“Because I now see that it is possible that I can receive a fair trial even with Americans as jurors … I wish to withdraw my guilty plea and ask the court for a new trial to prove my innocence ” he said.

In the affidavit, he again admitted being a member of al Qaeda, but said he was in the United States to take part in a second operation, scheduled to take place sometime after the September 11 attacks.

Moussaoui also said that his days in solitary confinement prior to his guilty verdicts made him “hostile toward everyone” and he began taking extreme positions in his case — over the objections of his defense attorneys — “to fight the system.”

Moussaoui’s attorneys acknowledged in the motion that the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibit a defendant from withdrawing a guilty plea after he is sentenced, but that “notwithstanding this prohibition, counsel is filing this motion given their problematic relationship with Moussaoui, of which the court is well aware.”

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