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Homeland Security

Accused Terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui to Plead Guilty

By Jim Bertel
Washington D.C.
22 April 2005

Accused September 11th conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is expected to plead guilty to charges that could bring him the death penalty. Government sources also expect him to admit to his role in the deadly hijacking plot.

Zacarias Moussaoui is the only person indicted in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington. His decision to plead guilty to the charges against him is the latest twist in a bizarre three-year legal drama.

The case has been characterized by delays, protracted arguments over access to al-Qaida members in U.S., custody, and erratic behavior by Mr. Moussaoui.

He has already pled guilty once but changed his mind in the middle of a hearing a week later. At that hearing, Mr. Moussaoui did admit to being a member of al-Qaida and said he had pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Mousaoui's bizarre behavior has included mocking the judge, insulting his own attorneys and trying to represent himself in court, leading many to question his mental competence.

Earlier this week U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled Mr. Moussaoui was mentally fit to enter the guilty plea.

Several news sources report Mr. Moussaoui's defense attorneys plan to appeal the judge's ruling arguing he is not competent. Legal scholar Stephen Saltzburg, of The George Washington University Law School in Washington, believes Mr. Moussaoui's attorneys will have a difficult time.

"He doesn't have to be a genius, he doesn't have to be a lawyer, doesn't have to understand the nuances and sophistications. He just has to understand what the charges are and what the consequences of pleading guilty are,” Mr. Saltzburg said.

Mr. Moussaoui's decision to plead guilty comes amid growing questions about whether he really was involved with the 2001 terrorist attack on New York and Washington.

The September 11th Commission revealed that suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed "denies ever considering Moussaoui" for the operation.

Mr. Moussaoui has told investigators he was being considered for a second wave of attacks still in the early planning stages. He is expected to receive the death penalty.

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