- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2002

Federal prosecutors yesterday opposed a request by suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui that his scheduled trial on charges he conspired in the September 11 attacks on America be televised.

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said Mr. Moussaoui's request in support of a bid by cable's Court TV to televise the pending trial should be denied because the televising of trials is prohibited by federal rules of criminal procedure and by rules already in place at the Alexandria court.

Mr. McNulty denied that the ban in televising trials was unconstitutional, a claim raised by Court TV in its request to cover the case.

"While the First Amendment includes a right to attend criminal trials, it does not include a right to observe such proceedings on television," he said. "Instead, the case law draws a clear distinction between an open trial and a televised trial, and rejects any claim the media has a First Amendment right to broadcast criminal proceedings."

Mr. McNulty also said televising the trial posed "significant risks to the administration of justice," and that Court TV had provided "no substantial reason why existing case law should be discarded in favor of a blanket constitutional rule."

Mr. Moussaoui's attorneys asked the court yesterday to allow the suspected terrorist's trial to be televised, saying that their client "recognizes that the American criminal justice system will be on display for the entire world as the trial of this action proceeds." They argued that televising the trial would "add an additional layer of protection to see these proceedings are fairly conducted."

Cameras are explicitly banned from federal courtrooms and trials have not been allowed to be shown on television. The trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was shown on closed-circuit TV to the members of the victims' families.

The trial will begin Oct. 14, pending a motion to delay the proceedings. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Sept. 30, although Mr. Moussaoui's attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema not to permit televising pretrial proceedings, saying anything said during pretrial arguments and jury selection could prejudice potential jurors "exposed to information that will not be admissible at trial."

Mr. Moussaoui's attorneys also requested that the television coverage be restricted to live coverage and that the court prohibit the replaying of tapes when jurors might be able to watch them.

Court TV, a division of AOL Time Warner, asked Judge Brinkema to allow the trial to be televised. It argued that the ban on cameras in the courtroom is unconstitutional although four federal circuit courts have upheld the constitutionality of rules barring the broadcasting of criminal trials. A hearing on the request is scheduled for next week.

Mr. Moussaoui was indicted Dec. 11 by a federal grand jury on six counts of conspiracy. He is accused of scheming with Osama bin Laden and members of the al Qaeda terrorist network to murder thousands of people in the September 11 attacks.

Four of the counts call for the death penalty and Judge Brinkema set March 29 as the deadline for the government to decide whether it will seek the death penalty.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities have arrested 13 persons they suspect may be linked to Mr. Moussaoui and the September 11 attacks. The 13 are accused of belonging to an Islamic militant group that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed said aimed to topple the government and establish a hard-line Islamic state comprising Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines.

The 13 were arrested between Dec. 9 and yesterday in Malaysia. Authorities seized documents on guerrilla warfare, map-reading and use of firearms, along with studies of militant Islamic groups in Afghanistan, the southern Philippines, the southern Russian republic of Chechnya and Indonesia.

Authorities said the suspects belonged to a wing of the Kumpulan Militan Malaysia, which the government claims trained in Afghanistan and has links with Islamic extremist organizations in Indonesia and the Philippines.


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