updated 10/27/2004 7:53:43 PM ET 2004-10-27T23:53:43

The government proposed Wednesday that Zacarias Moussaoui go on trial May 31, the day after Memorial Day, in the only U.S. case charging a defendant with crimes related to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Moussaoui, a French citizen, was indicted in December 2001, and his case has been delayed by pretrial disputes — primarily over whether he could have access to three high-ranking al-Qaida prisoners and whether the government could seek the death penalty.

The government’s motion followed an Oct. 13 appellate court ruling that denied any further argument on those issues. The ruling let stand a decision that let the government seek Moussaoui’s execution and told the trial judge to give Moussaoui access to portions of the prisoners’ interrogation statements, but not to the captives themselves.

The government proposed that jury selection begin April 25.

Moussaoui is charged with participating in a broad al-Qaida terrorism conspiracy against the United States that includes the Sept. 11 attacks. Moussaoui was arrested on immigration violations a month before those attacks occurred, when employees at a Minneapolis flight school became suspicious about his poor flying skills.

He has admitted loyalty to al-Qaida but said he was to be part of a later operation. He has said — and U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has agreed — that the three al-Qaida prisoners have made statements that support his contention that he was not to participate in the Sept. 11 hijackings.

Moussaoui’s lawyers have told the judge they plan to appeal the witness access and death penalty issues to the Supreme Court, but the government said that should not be an obstacle to setting a trial date.

Edward MacMahon Jr., a lawyer for Moussaoui, said the defense team had no immediate comment on the proposed date.

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