Moussaoui defense attorneys use top Al-Qaida operatives to rebut their own client
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui offered last month to testify for prosecutors against himself at his death-penalty trial and told agents that he did not want to die in prison, according to dramatic last-minute testimony Tuesday.The bizarre testimony capped a trial that has seen more than its share of the unusual over three tumultuous weeks. Introduced as part of a brief government rebuttal case, this testimony may be the firmest evidence the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent hopes for martyrdom through execution and could provide fodder for the closing arguments of both prosecutors and Moussaoui’s court-appointed defense attorneys.Moussaoui offered on Feb. 2, just before jury selection began, to testify that he was to have hijacked and piloted a fifth plane on Sept. 11, 2001. He did not ask that prosecutors stop pursuing the death penalty in return. He sought only better conditions in prison and a promise not to be called to testify against other al-Qaida members.FBI agent James Fitzgerald said Moussaoui told him – in a jailhouse meeting the defendant requested – that he did not want to die behind bars and it was “different to die in a battle … than in a jail on a toilet.” Moussaoui dropped this bid after he learned that he had an absolute right to testify in his own defense.On Monday, he stunned the court by asserting that he was to fly a 747 jetliner into the White House on 9/11, despite having claimed for three years that he had no role in the Sept. 11 plot. Instead, he had said his attack was to be part of a possible later assault.The February meeting was to have been off the record but was introduced by prosecutors at the end of testimony in the case to rebut a defense exhibit. Closing its case Tuesday, the defense had introduced a partial transcript of Moussaoui’s guilty plea last April.In the pleading, Moussaoui said, “Everybody knows that I’m not 9/11 material.” He said 9/11 “is not my conspiracy.” He said he was going to attack the White House if the United States did not release radical Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, imprisoned for other terrorist crimes.Vail, Colorado
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