Judge Bars Moussaoui From Courtroom

Artist rendering of Zacarias Moussaoui, center, gesturing during jury selection in his terrorist conspiracy trial in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Feb. 2, 2006.
AP
A federal judge rule Tuesday that Zacarias Moussaoui will not be in the courtroom for jury selection at his upcoming death-penalty trial, after Moussaoui again defied the judge at a pre-trial hearing.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said her main reason for holding Tuesday's hearing was to determine "how Mr. Moussaoui plans to behave ... whether you plan to remain quiet ... or whether you plan to make speeches."

Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan origin who pleaded guilty last April to conspiring with al Qaeda to use aircraft to target U.S. buildings, then pulled out what appeared to be a handwritten speech and berated the judge for ignoring his rights.

"Each time you say, 'Mr. Moussaoui keep quiet,' today is my day," Moussaoui said in a rambling speech.

Brinkema, after several minutes, ordered Moussaoui out of the courtroom and said that he will have to watch jury selection from his cell at the courthouse.

"Mr. Moussaoui, you are the biggest enemy of yourself," Brinkema said.

"God curse you and America," Moussaoui said as he left the courtroom. He was wearing green prison jumpsuit with white knit cap.

Moussaoui was tossed out of court four times when jury selection began on Feb. 6 for outbursts in which he disavowed his court-appointed lawyers, proclaimed loyalty to al Qaeda, derided the trial as a circus and promised to testify truthfully about his role.

Lawyers will begin individual questioning of jurors on Wednesday, and opening statements are scheduled for March 6. The trial, expected to last one to three months, will determine what sentence Moussaoui receives: death or life in prison.

Moussaoui claims he had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist plot but rather was training to fly a 747 jetliner into the White House later if the U.S. did not release an imprisoned radical Egyptian cleric. But he concealed that from federal agents who arrested him in Minnesota less than four weeks before 9/11.

Prosecutors will argue that federal agents could have prevented the attacks if Moussaoui had been truthful about his al Qaeda connections after his Aug. 16, 2001, arrest. To obtain the death penalty, the judge has said, the prosecutors must show that Moussaoui's lies were directly responsible for deaths in Sept. 11 attacks.

Defense lawyers argue that Moussaoui knew less about Sept. 11 beforehand than the government, and therefore had no knowledge that would have helped the FBI or any other government agency prevent the attacks.