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Moussaoui barred from court
McClatchy Newspapers


February 15, 2006

WASHINGTON - A federal judge Tuesday barred al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui from juror screening for his sentencing trial after he angrily refused to promise to sit quietly during the proceedings.

Moussaoui, during a contentious, eight-minute exchange with U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, angrily charged that his case is fixed to send him "to the gas chamber or lethal injection."

"You have been trying to organize my death for four years," the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent said.



He also disavowed his French nationality and called France "a nation of homosexual crusaders."

Moussaoui, who was arrested in Minnesota 3 1/2 years ago while training to fly a Boeing 747, pleaded guilty to six conspiracy counts last April and admitted that he had joined the Sept. 11 terrorists in a suicide hijacking conspiracy. A jury must now decide whether Moussaoui should be executed under any of three capital counts.

Brinkema held the hearing to find out whether Moussaoui would agree to cooperate during questioning of prospective jurors beginning Wednesday. Last week, she ejected him four times because of his outbursts lambasting his court-appointed attorneys during initial sessions with the 500-member jury pool.

Moussaoui picked up Tuesday where he left off.

"Today is my day," he said. "If I can't make sure that these people (lawyers) are not going to represent me, I know I am dead. . . . You own everything _ the defense, the judge, the attack (the prosecutors). I am al Qaeda. For me, you are my enemy."

Brinkema, after repeatedly warning Moussaoui, asked him for a last time whether he would sit quietly or be relegated to watching the proceedings on closed-circuit television in a jailhouse cell.

"I'm going to leave," he replied.

Moussaoui has spent most of the past four years in virtual solitary confinement. He has behaved erratically during court appearances and in filing legal motions. His court-appointed defense attorneys have questioned his mental competence.

Brinkema had been expected to take steps to constrain his behavior before opening arguments on March 6, and past Supreme Court rulings give her wide latitude in maintaining courtroom order. At the trial of the "Chicago Seven," anti-war protesters arrested during riots outside the 1972 Democratic National Convention, a judge ended outbursts by ordering Black Panther Bobby Seale bound and gagged. A Florida judge had a convicted killer's mouth sealed with duct tape at his 2004 sentencing.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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