- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

Family members and victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks will be allowed to watch the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui on closed-circuit television under a bill cleared by the House and Senate this week.

While Moussaoui's plea hearing today will not be televised, future court proceedings will be unless President Bush vetoes the supplemental spending bill passed by the Senate yesterday.

The bill includes a provision requiring the closed-circuit broadcast of Moussaoui's trial from U.S. District Court in Alexandria to a number of "convenient locations." The death penalty trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy V. McVeigh was similarly broadcast.

Moussaoui, 34, the only man indicted in connection with the attacks, attempted to plead guilty a week ago to a revised indictment that now permits use of the federal death penalty. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema forced him to take a week to reconsider his decision.

The bill, which passed the House Tuesday and is expected to be signed by the president, allocates $28.9 billion in emergency funds for the Pentagon, U.S. homeland security efforts and New York's recovery from September 11. The closed-circuit television provision was added by Virginia Republicans Sen. George F. Allen and Rep. Thomas S. Davis III.

"Moussaoui is an accused conspirator of one of the most heinous mass murders in history," Mr. Allen said in a statement. "His trial will be one of the most compelling for the families of victims since the Nuremburg tribunal."

Mr. Allen said family members of the more than 3,000 people killed by the suicide hijackers who slammed airplanes into the Pentagon, World Trade Center and a Pennsylvania field should be given the option of viewing the court proceedings.

"Doing so will help them begin to heal," he said, adding that closed-circuit television is justified because the courtroom is too small to house an audience of thousands.

Moussaoui, 34, will enter a formal plea today on six counts of conspiracy. The French citizen of Moroccan descent was picked up on a visa violation prior to the attacks. He came under suspicion after seeking flight lessons without landing instruction.

When he tried to plead guilty, Moussaoui told Judge Brinkema that he was a member of the al Qaeda terrorist network, and that he had important knowledge about the men who executed the attacks.

His court-appointed attorney on Monday told The Washington Times that federal prosecutors do not believe Moussaoui has any useful information about the hijackings.

Investigators' lack of interest in questioning Moussaoui who currently is representing himself suggests they doubt his claims of intimate knowledge of the hijackings, said public defender Frank W. Dunham.

In pretrial proceedings, Moussaoui won the right to defend himself. He has refused to speak with Mr. Dunham, who was appointed by the judge to stand by should Moussaoui need legal advice or become disqualified from self-representation.

Mr. Dunham has since made public his personal view that Moussaoui is mentally ill and should not be allowed to represent himself. On Monday, Judge Brinkema ruled that there has been no "new evidence" supporting claims that Moussaoui is not mentally competent to proceed as his own lawyer.

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