Moussaoui Attorneys Try to Salvage Defense The defense rests in Zacarias Moussaoui's sentencing trial after defense attorneys read testimony from al-Qaida operatives who are held by the United States. The al-Qaida operatives say that Moussaoui was considered unreliable and they did not intend to include him in the Sept. 11 attacks.
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Moussaoui Attorneys Try to Salvage Defense

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Moussaoui Attorneys Try to Salvage Defense

Law

Moussaoui Attorneys Try to Salvage Defense

Moussaoui Attorneys Try to Salvage Defense

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The defense rests in Zacarias Moussaoui's sentencing trial after defense attorneys read testimony from al-Qaida operatives who are held by the United States. The al-Qaida operatives say that Moussaoui was considered unreliable and they did not intend to include him in the Sept. 11 attacks.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's Laura Sullivan is with us from the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Laura how did that defense team do today?

LAURA SULLIVAN: Well the defense strategy today seemed to be to just plow on ahead. They're trying to bring the attention back to the FBI and the FAA, and especially after Moussaoui basically admitted to doing exactly what the prosecution said he did, which was being part of the 9/11 plot and lying about it, the defense is really just hoping to convince the jury that nothing Moussaoui could've said or done would have launched the FBI into action, and that no matter what he said, they would not have been able to have stopped the plot. So today they put forward a lot of written testimony from a handful of top al-Qaida operatives, most of whom are in U.S. custody. And taken together it was rather effective, all of them said that Moussaoui was never part of the 9/11 plot. And these are the witnesses that lawyers have fought over for years. This has delayed, these witnesses delayed the case for years. It went all the way up to the appellate court and in the end, it was only a couple hours of written testimony.

NORRIS: And that written testimony they were trying to paint exactly what kind of picture?

SULLIVAN: Well these were top al-Qaida leaders. The masterminds of the 9/11 plot and other plots. And it was interesting because they all described Moussaoui as annoying, basically. And there was, I mean, there was one Waleed bin Attash, he's pretty much known as Khallad. He was the mastermind of the U.S. Cole attack. And he said that Moussaoui, he gave Moussaoui a phone number to use for emergency purposes only, but that Moussaoui just called him every single day. And he was so worried about security that he had to get a new phone and shut his phone off. And then there was another one. Mustafa Hasawi, excuse me. He was the leader of a Southeast Asian terror network and he said that his group couldn't wait to get rid of Moussaoui when he had come to visit. And they even paid out of pocket, out of their own terrorist budget, to send him elsewhere and get him out of Southeast Asia. He called Moussaoui not right in the head. And he had, he said that he had, they had, Moussaoui had them running down all kinds of crazy plots that al-Qaida wasn't even in support of.

NORRIS: And Laura I understand the jury also heard today from U.S. Government officials.

SULLIVAN: They watched the written, the televised testimony of officials who testified before the 9/11 Commission such as National Security, then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, former FBI Director Thomas Pickard, and then Attorney General John Ashcroft. And it took on a new light in terms of the 9/11 Commission because it portrayed, they all said that there was not a lot of ways that the government could've stopped the attacks and, and that's really at issue in this case.

NORRIS: Laura very quickly, the defense has now finished its case, what's next?

SULLIVAN: Tomorrow morning they're going to deal with jury instructions and then at one o'clock they're going to go straight to closing arguments. Each side will have an hour to convince the jury. And it's important to note that this is only the first phase and the jury will then decide if they decide to go move forward with the death penalty, they'll go back and hear more testimony about whether or not Moussaoui deserves it.

NORRIS: Laura thank you.

SULLIVAN: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: NPR's Laura Sullivan at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

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