- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty rejected yesterday accusations by terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui that he was under FBI surveillance before the September 11 attacks on the United States and could not have been involved in the hijacking conspiracy.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Mr. McNulty said the government was not involved in surveillance activities focusing on Moussaoui after his arrival in the United States in February 2001 and his arrest a month before the September 11 attacks.

"The government is unaware of any such surveillance between the defendant's arrival in the United States on or about Feb. 23, 2001 and his arrest on Aug. 16," he said in the court papers.

Mr. McNulty, who is seeking the death penalty for Moussaoui in a trial scheduled to begin in September, said the 34-year-old French citizen had "tendered no specific evidence supporting his claim" and had failed to explain how "any such surveillance" would exonerate him.

Moussaoui, acting as his own attorney in a case involving charges of conspiring with the 19 hijackers and others in the September 11 attacks, told the court during a hearing last week that he had "secret information" of an FBI surveillance that would prove his innocence.

He accused the government of conducting a "covert operation" that involved surveillance of his activities over six months, saying that as a result, federal authorities knew he had not been in contact with the September 11 hijackers.

Moussaoui told U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema that unnamed U.S. authorities had become aware of him in 1998, after British police raided his London apartment after the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

He was arrested on immigration charges by FBI agents in Minnesota after officials at a Minneapolis flight school questioned his activities.

A federal grand jury in Alexandria returned a six-count, 30-page indictment Dec. 11, accusing Moussaoui of plotting with Osama bin Laden and members of his al Qaeda terrorist network to murder thousands of people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Named as unindicted co-conspirators were bin Laden and al Qaeda members Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad; Moustaffa Ahmed al-Hawasawi, accused of providing funds to Moussaoui from banks in the United Arab Emirates; and Ramzi Binalshibh, also suspected of moving cash to Moussaoui.

The unindicted co-conspirators also include the 19 dead hijackers, who crashed four fuel-filled jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Moussaoui is the only person formally charged in the September 11 attacks, which killed more than 3,000 people.

Mr. McNulty also asked Judge Brinkema to deny Moussaoui's request that he be released from custody to allow him to prepare for trial.

He reminded the judge that four of six counts against Moussaoui carry the death penalty.

"The defendant is an obvious risk of flight and a proven danger to the community, and he should therefore remain in prison until the trial begins," he said.

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