- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Federal prosecutors, facing the possibility of a military tribunal for terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, yesterday asked a federal appeals court to overturn a judge’s ruling that all but destroyed their pending death-penalty case.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, brought the appeal under the Classified Information Procedures Act, challenging a ruling by Judge Leonie Brinkema that barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty after they refused to make three al Qaeda prisoners available to Moussaoui.

The appeal went to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Mr. McNulty’s office has defied two court orders by Judge Brinkema that would have given Moussaoui the right to question al Qaeda detainees. As punishment, the judge barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty or presenting evidence linking Moussaoui to the September 11 attacks.

Moussaoui, the only person charged in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed 3,000 persons, sought to question accused al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; Ramzi Binalshibh, a key planner for the terrorist network; and al Qaeda paymaster Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi.

Judge Brinkema ruled that questioning the three suspected terrorists was necessary for Moussaoui to get a fair trial — a position rejected by the government, which said it would disrupt ongoing interrogations and subvert President Bush’s constitutional powers to conduct the war on terrorism.

Moussaoui, 35, a French citizen of Moroccan heritage, has acknowledged his ties to al Qaeda but has denied being part of the September 11 conspiracy. If its appeal is unsuccessful, the Bush administration is expected to move the case to a military tribunal.

Mr. McNulty also asked the court to expedite the appeal process so arguments in the case could occur before Dec. 2.

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