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Expert: Moussaoui is mentally ill

Other witnesses tell of Moussaoui's chaotic upbringing

From Phil Hirschkorn

A jury is deciding whether Zacarias Moussaoui will die for his connection with the 9/11 attacks.



Capital Punishment
September 11 attacks
Zacarias Moussaoui

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- A clinical psychologist who has studied Zacarias Moussaoui for the past four years told jurors at his sentencing trial Monday that the al Qaeda plotter is mentally ill.

"Mr. Moussaoui suffers from schizophrenia, and is a paranoid subtype," Dr. Xavier Amador testified.

Amador is the first mental health expert called by defense attorneys seeking to persuade jurors to spare Moussaoui's life. Amador began his testimony late in the day and will return to the stand when testimony resumes Tuesday.

Amador said he interviewed Moussaoui, reviewed transcripts of his courtroom testimony and examined the voluminous and often rambling writings Moussaoui churned out when he was acting as his own attorney.

Several other schizophrenia experts have independently reached the same conclusion. However, two government-appointed doctors disagree.

Amador said that schizophrenics can be well-groomed and articulate, as Moussaoui has appeared in his two turns on the witness stand. About half the people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia believe nothing is wrong with them, he added.

Moussaoui testified that he is not "crazy."

Causes of schizophrenia are largely genetic, Amador said, adding that if a parent or sibling has the disease, a person's chances of getting it increase.

Earlier, the jury heard testimony that Moussaoui's father, Omar, and two older sisters, Nadia and Jamilla, also suffer from mental illness.

Chaotic upbringing

"All three have had hospitalizations," clinical social worker Jan Vogelsang testified. "All have been described as delusional."

Moussaoui's father, recently homeless, lives in a psychiatric hospital in France "too sedated to be interviewed," Vogelsang said. Nadia "believes that she turns to stone and is unable to move," she added. Jamilla has tried to set her mother's house on fire.

Vogelsang told jurors Moussaoui grew up in a violent and unstable household. He was shuttled in and out of orphanages during his first six years.

Moussaoui's father battered his mother for years until their 1972 divorce, Vogelsang said. He beat her even during her pregnancies. A boxer, he once crushed her jaw and tried to run her over with a car, Vogelsang said.

Jurors heard from the sisters, who testified via videotape on Monday. Both appeared calm and composed, but take anti-psychotic medications, Vogelsang testified.

Nadia described her brother as an affectionate young man who idolized Martin Luther King Jr. "I don't know what he's become," she said.

Jamilla said her brother became "bizarre" after he moved to England in the 1990s, and was "tiresome" talking about Islam the last time he visited the family in France in 1997.

Both sisters lamented life under their father, who beat them and their mother and left them destitute and hungry.

"He traumatized us all," Jamilla said. "As an infant, he hit me like an adult."

"We were terrorized," Nadia said. "I think we all felt it."

Endured racism in France

Moussaoui's mother, Aicha el-Wafi, has attended the trial but is not expected to testify for her son.

Vogelsang testified that the mother worked two jobs to support her children, but did little to help them cope with the racism they faced as dark-skinned North Africans living in France.

Religion was not part of their upbringing. Moussaoui's mother "wanted to leave that culture behind," Vogelsang added.

Moussaoui's conversion to radical Islam began when he moved to London, England, in 1992 . He shaved his head and grew a beard.

Three friends testified on videotape that before his conversion, Moussaoui loved life but endured the sting of racism in France.

In England, he earned a Master's degree in business at South Bank University in London.

Nil Plant, a fellow Muslim and classmate, described Moussaoui as "a bit of a misfit. He wasn't a proper Arab, and he wasn't a proper French boy. He was sort of stuck in between."

Imam Abdul Haqq Baker, of Brixton Mosque in London, said Moussaoui's demeanor changed when he got involved with fundamentalist recruiters. He became brash and confrontational. "You could see the disdain in his face," Baker said.

The defense will conclude with a dozen relatives of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Defense attorneys have dropped plans to call experts to testify about how suicidal terrorists are recruited and trained, since Moussaoui testified with pride that it was his choice to become a fighter for al Qaeda, the radical Islamic terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Moussaoui explicitly said he had no remorse for the 9/11 deaths, stating that he wished follow-up attacks could occur "every day." He said he was willing to kill Americans "any time, anywhere."

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