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9.11 investigation

US tries to drop charges against 9/11 'conspirator'

US prosecutors attempting to bring a case against the so-called "20th hijacker", Zacarias Moussaoui, have been forced to ask for all charges against him to be dropped, a legal manoeuvre they hope will keep him from calling other terrorism suspects as defence witnesses.
US tries to drop charges against 9/11 'conspirator'

Agencies
Friday September 26, 2003
The Guardian

US prosecutors attempting to bring a case against the so-called "20th hijacker", Zacarias Moussaoui, have been forced to ask for all charges against him to be dropped, a legal manoeuvre they hope will keep him from calling other terrorism suspects as defence witnesses.

Prosecutors ran into trouble with the case after two district court orders gave Mr Moussaoui the right to question three suspected al-Qaida members who he says could testify he was not a conspirator in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The government argues he does not have the right to question suspected terrorists.

The justice department wants the district court judge to drop the charges against Mr Moussaoui, so that an appeals court can hear the case and overrule the district court orders.

"In light of the rulings this court has already made ... the government believes that, at this juncture, dismissal of the indictment ... is the surest route for ensuring that the questions at issue here can promptly be presented to the 4th circuit [court of appeal]," the government's written motion said.

US district judge Leonie Brinkema has said she would impose a punishment on the government next week for defying the two orders, which gave Moussaoui - a French citizen - the right to question the witnesses through a satellite link.

Prosecutors have opposed any direct access between the prisoners and Mr Moussaoui, who has acknowledged his loyalty to Osama bin Laden, and is the only defendant to be charged in the US as a conspirator with the September 11 hijackers.

The government has argued that national security would be gravely harmed if any details were revealed about the sensitive interrogations or statements made by the prisoners, who are held at undisclosed locations outside the US.

However, federal law says that when a defendant is prevented by a court order from disclosing classified information - in this case the al-Qaida testimony - the judge is obliged to dismiss the case unless the court determines the interests of justice would be served by another solution. Mr Moussaoui's defence team, which is representing his interests despite his insistence on serving as his own lawyer, said in a motion released Wednesday that the case should be dismissed.

Two of the prisoners Moussaoui intended to call as witnesses are allegedly among Osama bin Laden's top operatives; Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - fingered as the September 11 mastermind, and Ramzi Binalshibh - accused as being a key planner of the attacks. The third, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, is a suspected al-Qaida paymaster.

In a statement, the justice department said, "We believe the [US] constitution does not require, and national security will not permit, the government to allow Moussaoui, an avowed terrorist, to have direct access to his terrorist confederates who have been detained abroad as enemy combatants in the midst of a war." The government said in the motion that the issue before the court was whether the constitutional right to access to favourable witnesses applies to an enemy combatant "seized and held abroad during armed hostilities".

A three-judge panel of the appellate court has heard oral arguments on the witness access issue, and has said it would intervene after Ms Brinkema issued her sanctions against the government.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

homepage: homepage: http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4762180-110878,00.html

Unfortunately... 26.Sep.2003 12:40

penda

Unfortunately, all this does is clear the way for him to be tried by military tribunal instead of a real court. This is exactly what the government wants.

i sense a government afraid of testimony. 26.Sep.2003 13:20

this thing here

the question is why. is it as this story makes out? simply that the witnesses might damage the government's case against Mr. Moussaoui? or is it that, as witnesses, they might damage the "official story" of 09 11 01?

i sense a government that is trying desperately to NOT EVER have to deal with witnesses, and instead just try these men in a perfunctory, secret manner. as well, summarily labelling these men (except Mr. Moussaoui, which is why we are here today) with a flick of the pen in washington as "enemy combatants" accomplishes the same goal. the goal of never having to deal with witnesses, never having the witnesses court transcripts made public, never having the defendants court transcripts made public, and the ultimate goal of never having a relatively open criminal trial held in a civil court, but instead a tightly controlled, closed and secret trial held in a court of the government's choosing.

i find this more than a little suspicious. i find the invention of the unprescedented legal classification "enemy combatant" more than a little suspicious. it's a little too much maneuvering and machination. furthermore, it sticks out compared to previous terrorist trials. the mastermind of the '93 bombing of the world trade center was not tried before a secretly held military tribunal. so why now?

i think it's because the government wants to publically say "we put these men away", but it desperately doesn't want so much as a tiny squeeck of their voices getting out. it's as if an eloborate gag is being placed over the whole proceeding. if a defendant is labelled "enemy combatant", then the gag has been placed over them even before the trial. if a defendant's case is moved from a civil court and tried before a military tribunal, then the gag has been placed over the defendant at the time of trial. what possibly could the gag hide...

national security? oh yes, but not the usual "our methods of identifying and capturing terrorists". no way. it's much deeper and bigger than that...

Why can we not know what the witnesses have to say? 26.Sep.2003 13:26

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How would this really effect national security?? Is this supposed to be something resembling justice or is just this a kangaroo court?