- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002


For the second time, a judge in Alexandria postponed the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, agreeing with prosecutors and the defendant that the man accused of being an accomplice in the September 11 terrorist attacks needed more time to prepare for a case that could cost him his life.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said yesterday that the trial would begin June 30, instead of in January.

The trial originally was to have begun yesterday, but the judge had extended it because the defense wasn't ready. Defense attorneys also had argued it was too soon after the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Jury selection now begins in May.

Moussaoui is accused of conspiring with 19 members of suicide teams to commit terrorism, hijack aircraft and kill more than 3,000 people in the four hijacked jetliners, at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon.

The government has said it would seek Moussaoui's execution if the 34-year-old French Moroccan is convicted of capital charges. Four of the six conspiracy counts against him carry the death penalty.

Meanwhile, prosecutors provided additional details learned from a charred business card found at a September 11 crash site in Shanksville, Pa. The government said the card was in the name of hijacker Ziad Jarrah's uncle, and asserted that the card linked Moussaoui to Jarrah.

The government said the card contained a handwritten address in Germany that was connected to a telephone number belonging to Ramzi Binalshibh, a reputed organizer of the September 11 attacks. Prosecutors said Moussaoui also had called the phone number at that address.

The indictment says that Binalshibh, using an alias, wired money to Moussaoui.

The government disclosed the information in an attempt to convince the judge to permit playing of cockpit recordings that would establish that Jarrah was on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed at Shanksville after passengers fought with the hijackers. Prosecutors said a witness would identify Jarrah's voice from the tape.

Moussaoui is representing himself, although a team of experienced court-appointed lawyers are assisting him even though he often insults the attorneys in his handwritten motions. Moussaoui has acknowledged that he is loyal to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network but has denied involvement in the September 11 attacks.

Judge Brinkema said prosecutors, Moussaoui and the defense team agreed on the compelling argument that the need for a fair trial outweighed the interests of the public and defendant to a speedy trial.

"In particular, the pleadings establish that a failure to grant a continuance could result in a miscarriage of justice and would not allow the parties a sufficient opportunity to adequately prepare for trial," Judge Brinkema said.

The judge also granted a motion by the defense team to give Moussaoui a larger cell in the Alexandria Detention Center, where he is in solitary confinement and unable to contact the outside world.

"In light of the lengthy delay of the trial date, we find the defendant's continued pretrial confinement to a small, windowless cell to be both inhumane and an unreasonable barrier to his ability to work with the materials produced to him," Judge Brinkema said.

"Accordingly," the judge wrote, "the defendant's 'Motion to Get a Bigger Cave' is granted."

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