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Government almost done turning over evidence

Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui  

From Phil Hirschkorn

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia. (CNN) -- Federal prosecutors say they are nearly done turning over copies of the evidence against Zacarias Moussaoui, the first person being prosecuted in connection to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Moussaoui, who is representing himself, has received thousands of documents, computer discs, e-mails, videotapes, and audiotapes at the Alexandria Detention Center, which has set up a special room near his jail cell to allow him to review the evidence and prepare for trial, now scheduled to begin with jury selection December 9.

Moussaoui also has been given a computer and granted access to a secure Web site prepared by a team of court-appointed attorneys, known as "standby counsel," who are assisting him.

"Production of discovery by the government is nearly complete," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Spencer wrote in court papers filed Monday. "There is evidence discovered in Pakistan and Afghanistan that is being analyzed and translated on a continuing basis."

Timeline: The case of Zacarias Moussaoui 
U.S. opposition to petition for a writ of mandamus  
Superseding indictment, July 16, 2002: U.S. v. Moussaoui  (FindLaw documents, PDF format)
MORE STORIES At the crossroads of terror 

Prosecutors are also providing Moussaoui a summary of government expert testimony and propose turning over their witness list by December 2, 35 days before opening statements, which is more than a month earlier than the government is required to do so.

For weeks, Moussaoui, 34, a French citizen of Moroccan heritage, had refused to speak to or meet with standby counsel. That gradually changed over the summer, with Moussaoui most recently using a Muslim law professor as an intermediary.

"Mr. Moussaoui is now at least listening to and considering the advice of counsel," wrote federal defender Frank Dunham, who leads the team, which continues to file motions on Moussaoui's behalf.

In the latest filing on Friday, Dunham objected to the government's plan to call one summary witness to describe the attack on the World Trade Center with photographic and video evidence. That witness, a detective for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Trade Center's owner, escaped the buildings on September 11.

"A summary witness is ordinarily a dispassionate presenter," Dunham wrote, "not one who is also an eyewitness to, and participant in, events," he said.

Dunham also called the proposed visual evidence "highly inflammatory and unfairly prejudicial" against Moussaoui, who faces six counts of conspiring to commit terrorist acts, hijacking, and use weapons of mass destruction.

"The issue in this case is whether or not Mr. Moussaoui was involved in the conspiracies that resulted in the deaths on 9/11, not whether the airplanes flew into the WTC, the Pentagon, and the ground in Pennsylvania, and there was loss of life caused by this," Dunham wrote. He proposed prohibiting or limiting visuals of "carnage" at trial and not showing photographs of all 3,000 victims to the jury, which may have the option of sentencing Moussaoui to death, if it convicts him.

Moussaoui's own thinking in the case in somewhat a mystery at the moment, since U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has decided to keep his motions under seal, because, she wrote in a recent order, they contain "threats, racial slurs, calls to action, or other irrelevant and inappropriate language. "

Prosecutors suggested Moussaoui might have been using the motions, posted on the Internet, to send messages to conspirators around the world in violation of the restrictive incarceration imposed on U.S. terrorist suspects.

More than 20 motions filed by Moussaoui in the past few weeks remain under seal.

In one recent motion, Moussaoui apparently sought to trim the acts alleged in the indictment. The government's public response objected to Moussaoui's request to strike references to al Qaeda's efforts to obtain nuclear and chemical weapons and fatwas, or religious decrees, issued by its leader, Osama bin Laden, calling for the violent expulsion of U.S. troops on Muslim lands such as Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

Prosecutors said these alleged acts "put in context the core allegation of the indictment: that members and/or associates of al Qaeda declared war on the United States and sought to use virtually an means available to murder Americans en masse."

In open court, Moussaoui has admitted joining al Qaeda around 1995, swearing allegiance to bin Laden, and participating in some unspecified conspiracy, but he denies any role in the September 11 plot.

"A defendant need not have joined a conspiracy at its inception in order to incur liability for the unlawful acts of the conspiracy committed both before and after he or she became a member," prosecutors wrote.




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