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Moussaoui no longer wants death penalty

Deborah Charles / Reuters | April 14 2006

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) - September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui said on Thursday that he no longer wanted to be executed as the death penalty was not in line with Islamic teaching, but doubted his testimony held any sway with the jurors considering his sentence.

Moussaoui, 37, who pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy in connection with the September 11 attacks, pulled back from statements made several times over the past four years that indicated he would welcome a death sentence.

His lawyer Gerald Zerkin showed him a filing he made to the court in August 2002 in which he said the "greatest jihad in Islam is to speak the truth in front of the tyrant and be executed for it."

Moussaoui said he no longer wanted to include the "and be executed" part of that statement, because he had consulted Islamic books and decided that violated Muslim religious beliefs.

Taking the stand for the second time at his sentencing trial against the advice of his lawyers, he criticized his court-appointed defense team and said their strategy should have included the argument that jail was a better punishment since execution would reward him with martyrdom.

Defense lawyers have tried to persuade the jury that he is mentally unstable with delusions of importance in al Qaeda and should not be sentenced to death.

But Moussaoui, a French citizen, has refused to cooperate with those lawyers and was asked by one of them if he thought his attorneys were in a conspiracy to kill him.

"I thought you had not my best interests at heart," said Moussaoui," he said in response to a question Zerkin. "First you are American, second you are Jewish."

One of his major complaints was that he was never given a Muslim attorney.

BARGAINING CHIP?

Moussaoui said in court last month that he was supposed to fly a fifth plane into the White House as part of the al Qaeda hijacking plot. This testimony contradicted his previous claims that he was not meant to be part of the September 11 hijacking, but was supposed to be in a second wave of attacks.

Many observers thought his testimony solidified the prosecution's case that he was involved in the deaths of 3,000 people on September 11.

Moussaoui, dressed in a green prisoner jumpsuit and white cap, said on Thursday his earlier comments had made little difference.

"I thought about ... the consequences for me saying I was a part of 9/11. I decided to just put my trust in God and tell the truth and time will tell," he said.

"Even without my testimony, taking into account the emotion of the case, there was definitely a chance I would be found eligible for death," he said.

He also said he would try to convince a jury that if they sentence him to life instead of executing him they might be able to save American lives if he could be used as a bargaining chip.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema allowed Moussaoui to act as his own lawyer for more than a year early in the case, but eventually revoked the right after he continued to file inflammatory motions with the court attacking her, his lawyers and U.S. officials.

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