- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2002

Government prosecutors are asking a federal judge to allow video footage and cockpit recordings from the September 11 terrorist attacks to be played at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man indicted in connection with the attacks.

The footage, along with pictures of victims' families, will show that the attacks "involved torture or serious physical abuse to the victim," according to a motion submitted yesterday by prosecutors in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Moussaoui's trial is set to begin there at the end of September. The 34-year-old French-Moroccan faces six counts of conspiracy in plotting the attacks with Osama bin Laden and members of the al Qaeda terrorist network.

Prosecutors believe Moussaoui took similar actions, including enrolling in a flight school, to those taken by the 19 suicide hijackers involved in the attacks in New York, Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Investigators believe Moussaoui would have been the "20th hijacker" had he not been in custody for immigration violations at the time of the attacks.

The Bush administration has said it would seek to execute Moussaoui if he is convicted of conspiracy to commit terrorism. If U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema approves the government's motion to use photos, video footage and cockpit recordings of the attacks, the evidence would be introduced during the penalty phase of Moussaoui's trial.

Prosecutors seeking the death penalty in any event are required by federal law to show the "aggravating factors" behind a crime. That requirement will be fulfilled in the Moussaoui case by the video footage, cockpit recordings and photographs, which prove that the September 11 attacks were committed "in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner," the government's motion states.

Families of people killed in the attacks have provided photos of the victims to be used during the trial, "so the jury properly understands who was murdered instead of merely hearing statistics," the motion states. There were 2,823 persons killed in New York on September 11, another 189 at the Pentagon and 44 on a hijacked jetliner that crashed in Pennsylvania, according to official figures.

In addition to the photographs, prosecutors want to call New York City Port Authority Detective James Wheeler to testify on several different video perspectives of the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center. He was at the scene when the hijacked airplanes hit.

"The use of Detective Wheeler as a summary witness is particularly appropriate in this case because there is no question that the September 11 attacks happened and these victims were murdered," the motion states. "Indeed, in his most recent filings, [Moussaoui] seems to take great joy in the work of his fellow al Qaeda conspirators."

Moussaoui, who is representing himself in court, speaks fluent English and reportedly holds a master's degree from a British university. He admitted during pretrial hearings last month that he is a member of al Qaeda, but he denies having played any role in planning the September 11 attacks.

It was not clear yesterday whether he will attempt to file a response to the government's motion on using video footage, cockpit recordings and photographs during the trial.

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