- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2006

Terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, proclaiming his allegiance to al Qaeda, was removed four times from an Alexandria federal courtroom yesterday during the opening round of jury selection to determine whether the only person charged in the U.S. in the September 11 attacks should be put to death.

Calling the proceedings a “circus,” the 37-year-old French citizen of Moroccan descent put his hands on his head and offered no resistance each time he was led out of the courtroom by U.S. marshals after telling U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema that he wanted to be heard and disavowed his American attorneys, saying, “They do not represent me.”

“I am al Qaeda,” said Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty in April to conspiring with the 19 terrorists who slammed four hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Clad in a green jumpsuit with the word “prisoner” printed on the back, Moussaoui was removed after he confronted the judge during instructions to each of four panels of 125 prospective jurors. He called his defense team “a fraud.” He also said he had waited four years to testify and would “take the stand.”

Once seated, the jury will be asked whether Moussaoui should face the death penalty. Judge Brinkema told jurors at the start of the selection process, which is expected to take a month, that they had to put aside feelings about the September 11 attacks and determine Moussaoui’s fate based “on the hard evidence presented in the courtroom.”

In entering his guilty plea in April, Moussaoui told Judge Brinkema that he conspired with members of al Qaeda to commit acts of terrorism, aircraft piracy and murder U.S. citizens, but he denied direct involvement in the attacks. He said he had been training for a separate mission to fly a 747 aircraft into the White House.

His allegiance to al Qaeda is old news. In July 2002, in a handwritten note to Judge Brinkema, Moussaoui said that he was a terrorist and that Osama bin Laden was “my brother in Islam and my father in Jihad.”

“I am a mujahideen, if Allah accept me. I am a terrorist … But it does not mean that I took part in September 11,” he wrote.

He pleaded guilty to charges in a federal grand jury indictment accusing him of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, commandeer and destroy aircraft, use weapons of mass destruction, murder U.S. citizens and destroy property. Named as unindicted co-conspirators were bin Laden and the hijackers.

The indictment said that when Moussaoui was detained by FBI agents on immigration charges in Minneapolis on Aug. 16, 2001, he had in his possession knives, binoculars, a hand-held aviation radio, Boeing 747 flight manuals and computer programs on flight simulation, pilot procedures and aerial pesticide application.

Trial in the sentencing question is scheduled to begin March 6.

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