Thursday, April 20, 2006

From combined dispatches

“Shoe bomber” Richard C. Reid had no advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks, a jury was told yesterday, casting doubt on claims by Zacarias Moussaoui that Reid was to have joined him in the assault.

A statement indicating Reid was not involved was read by a defense attorney as the Moussaoui team closed its case in the sentencing trial of the 37-year-old French Moroccan, who faces possible execution as the only person convicted in the United States for the September 11 plot.

Moussaoui made a surprise claim when testifying last month in the Alexandria courtroom that Reid was to have joined him and fly a fifth plane into the White House as part of a coordinated attack with hijacked airliners.

But Moussaoui’s lawyers have said their client lied about his role in al Qaeda and September 11, and have argued he is mentally ill and should not be sentenced to death.

Prosecutors then opened their rebuttal case with testimony from psychiatrist Raymond Patterson, who has examined Moussaoui and disputes claims of doctors summoned by the defense that the terrorist conspirator is schizophrenic.

Yesterday’s statement by the defense lawyer was presented after seven more family members of victims of September 11 testified of the need to try to understand why the attacks happened and not to seek retribution.

Alan Yamamoto, one of Moussaoui’s court-appointed lawyers, read the statement, approved by federal prosecutors who are seeking to have Moussaoui executed.

“There is no information available to indicate that Richard Reid had pre-knowledge of the 9/11 attacks or was instructed by the al Qaeda leadership to conduct an operation in coordination with Moussaoui,” the statement said.

It said that Reid had written a will naming Moussaoui as the beneficiary of his belongings. The FBI concluded the will showed that it was “highly unlikely” Reid was to have been part of the same martyrdom operation as Moussaoui.

Reid failed in an attempt to blow up an American Airlines plane from Paris to Miami in December 2001 after passengers and crew tackled him as he tried to ignite explosives in his shoe. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2003.

In testimony last month, Moussaoui said Reid was to join him as crew when he flew a fifth airplane into the White House on September 11. In later testimony this month, Moussaoui said he was friends with Reid but had never talked to him specifically about the plot.

Moussaoui’s claims contradicted his previous statements when he pleaded guilty last year. At that time he said he was not part of the September 11 plot but was meant to be in a second wave of attacks.

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