- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

The government will seek the death penalty against Zacarias Moussaoui, the 33-year-old French Moroccan indicted last year in the September 11 attacks on America.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, in papers filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, said Moussaoui deserves to die for conspiracy in the attack that saw "the largest loss of life resulting from a criminal act in the history of the United States."
Moussaoui, the only person charged in the suicide strikes that killed about 3,000 people, was indicted Dec. 11 by a federal grand jury in Alexandria. The six-count indictment accuses Moussaoui of plotting with Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network to murder thousands of people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Mr. McNulty told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema that prosecutors would prove Moussaoui took part in an international plot that resulted in crimes committed "in an especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner in that they involved torture and serious physical abuse to the victims."
He said that the crimes took place "after substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person and to commit an act of terrorism" and that Moussaoui took part in the conspiracy knowing it "constituted a reckless disregard for human life."
The decision to seek the death penalty was met with criticism from France, Moussaoui's home country, which asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to reconsider. French officials said yesterday that they might refuse to cooperate in ongoing terrorism investigations.
Mr. Ashcroft, attending an immigration ceremony in Miami, said he hoped U.S. allies would continue to cooperate despite any misgivings.
"We ask our counterparts in the international community to respect our sovereignty, and we respect theirs," he said. "To the extent that they can cooperate and help us, we welcome that cooperation."
Mr. Ashcroft said the Justice Department, after a lengthy review process, identified several "aggravating factors" that warranted seeking the death penalty in the Moussaoui case, including "the impact of the crime on thousands of victims."
"We remain committed not only to carrying out justice, but also to ensuring that the rights of the victims are fully protected," he said.
Moussaoui's attorney, Frank Dunham, also criticized Mr. Ashcroft, saying he was trying to influence potential jurors by announcing the death-penalty decision at a press conference.
"The attorney general knows exactly what he's doing. He's doing it deliberately and unethically. It can't just be a mistake. It's an intentional act to influence the jury pool," Mr. Dunham said, adding that jury selection was going to be difficult enough since one of the hijacked aircraft crashed just a few miles from the court where the trial will be held.
Mr. Dunham had no comment on the death-penalty motion itself, saying he would respond to it in court.
On Dec. 11, a federal grand jury in Alexandria said in a six-count indictment that Moussaoui plotted with bin Laden and al Qaeda to murder thousands of people at the World Trade Center and 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.
Unindicted co-conspirators also include the 19 dead hijackers, who crashed four fuel-filled jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a western Pennsylvania field.
The indictment says Moussaoui:
Conspired to kill persons within the United States and to create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to others by destroying and damaging structures and other properties. The maximum penalty is death.
Conspired to seize a U.S. aircraft by means of force and violence. The maximum penalty is death.
Conspired to destroy aircraft in the United States and to perform acts of violence against passengers on those aircraft. The maximum penalty is death.
Conspired to use weapons of mass destruction, namely airplanes intended for use as missiles and bombs. The maximum penalty is death.
Conspired to kill U.S. government employees, including those at the Pentagon, who were engaged in performing their duties. The maximum penalty is life in prison.
Conspired to destroy, by means of fire and explosives, buildings and other property owned or possessed by the U.S. government. The maximum penalty is life in prison.
Mr. McNulty said that in February 2001, Moussaoui entered the United States, "where he then enjoyed the educational opportunities available in a free society, for the purpose of gaining specialized knowledge in flying an aircraft in order to kill as many American citizens as possible."
He said Moussaoui's actions resulted in the deaths of 3,000 people from more than 15 countries, and in serious physical and emotional injuries, including maiming, disfigurement and permanent disability to numerous others who survived the September 11 attacks.
Mr. McNulty, who said in the court papers that Moussaoui has shown "a lack of remorse for his criminal conduct," noted that among those killed at the World Trade Center were 343 members of the New York City Fire Department, 37 Port Authority police officers, 38 Port Authority civilian employees and 23 New York City police officers.
Moussaoui first came to the attention of the FBI on Aug. 15, when agents in Minneapolis received information about his flight training. Working with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, agents were able to ensure that he was detained on visa violations. He has remained in custody since.
The agents sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order to search his computer, although lawyers at FBI headquarters believed there was insufficient probable cause for the order.
Records show that when Moussaoui arrived in this country, he opened a bank account with $32,000 and immediately enrolled in a flight school. He received $14,000, reportedly sent to him by Binalshibh from Germany in August. On Aug. 10, he paid $6,300 in cash for flight lessons, according to the records.

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