- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Prosecutors yesterday said admitted al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui came to the U.S. solely to kill Americans, as the death-penalty case in Alexandria federal court went to the jury.

“Instead, he killed people by lying and concealing the plot … that resulted in the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history,” prosecutor David Akin said.

Defense attorney Edward MacMahon countered that his client was merely an “al Qaeda hanger-on” who had nothing to do with September 11.

The arguments ended the high-profile sentencing trial in which Moussaoui testified he was to have piloted a fifth hijacked plane September 11 and flown it into the White House.

The panel of nine men and three women will decide whether Moussaoui bears blame for at least one death in the September 11 attacks. If so, a second phase of the trial will open that will determine whether he deserves to be executed.

If not sentenced to execution, the 37-year-old Frenchman will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Mr. Akin said Moussaoui lied “with lethal intent” when he failed to tell federal agents after his arrest in August 2001 about his al Qaeda allegiance and the plot to kill Americans using hijacked aircraft.

But Mr. MacMahon accused the prosecution of trivializing bureaucratic blunders that might have prevented the 9/11 plot from being exposed.

“Moussaoui was never involved other than in his dreams,” Mr. MacMahon said, trying to minimize damage that Moussaoui might have done to himself when he said on the stand that he was to have crashed a plane into the White House on September 11.

“The government cannot prove a hypothetical, what would have happened if Moussaoui had not lied,” he said. “We will never know what could have happened in the 25 days between Moussaoui’s arrest and September 11.”

He said of his client: “He’s now trying to write a role for himself in history when in reality he’s an al Qaeda hanger-on.”

Moussaoui watched the closing arguments impassively but shouted “Victory to Moussaoui, God curse America,” during a recess after the judge and jury had left the room. The recess preceded U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema’s instructions to the jury.

Prosecutors contended that if Moussaoui had told the truth after his arrest, investigators could have tracked down 11 of the 19 hijackers. “The FBI would have had the names, the phone numbers, and their addresses in some cases,” Mr. Akin said.

The bottom line, he said, was that, “He chose Osama bin Laden, and because of that, 2,900 are dead.”

Mr. MacMahon challenged the assertion that Moussaoui had led investigators on a fruitless chase with his deceptions. He said, for example, that the government had the identities of two of the hijackers 18 months before 9/11 and still did nothing.

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