IMAGE: Zacarias Moussaoui
Reuters file
Zacarias Moussaoui is the only person charged in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
updated 9/28/2004 4:48:04 PM ET 2004-09-28T20:48:04

Attorneys for terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui asked all the judges on a Southern appeals court Tuesday to consider whether Moussaoui could have direct access to al-Qaida witnesses and whether the government could seek his execution.

If the full 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., approves a rehearing of the issues, which have already been adjudicated by a three-judge appellate panel, a long-delayed trial would be postponed even longer.

“Moussaoui has a constitutional right to compel attendance of witnesses. The panel opinion denies him that right,” said Edward MacMahon Jr., one of Moussaoui’s attorneys.

MacMahon added, “If the court doesn’t give him the full abilities to present a defense, the government shouldn’t be allowed to seek the death penalty.”

Long-delayed trial
Moussaoui is the only U.S. defendant charged with participating in an al-Qaida terrorism conspiracy that included the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Moussaoui has acknowledged his loyalty to al-Qaida but said in court filings that he was to have been part of a later operation.

The indictment against Moussaoui, a French citizen, will be three years old in December, and the same witness access and death penalty issues have caused much of the delay.

In mid-September, the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit reaffirmed an earlier ruling that said Moussaoui could have access to summaries of statements made by three high-level al-Qaida prisoners. The decision also said defense lawyers could submit questions for the witnesses, but the procedure was deleted from the opinion for security reasons.

The panel also ruled — for a second time — that the government had the right to seek the death penalty if Moussaoui was convicted.

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