Judge enters innocent plea for Moussaoui in revised Sept. 11 indictment

Tuesday, June 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ A federal judge entered a plea of innocent Tuesday on behalf of Zacarias Moussaoui at the French citizen's arraignment on a revised indictment in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

A defiant Moussaoui, who refused ``in the name of Allah,'' to enter a plea at his initial arraignment, took the same tack again.

Standing before U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in the federal courthouse here, Moussaoui declared, ``I do not accept this plea of not guilty. I have no plea. I will plead no contest. I have nothing to say to the United States. That's all.''

After telling Moussaoui that ``you don't control the courtroom,'' Brinkema reminded the defendant that a no-contest pleading ``may result in an almost certain finding of guilt.''

Then, she told him she was entering a plea of innocent on his behalf.

``Since the beginning,'' he shot back, ``you are interfering with my right to represent myself.''

Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection with last year's attacks against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, had been recalled to court to answer a slightly revised indictment charging him with conspiring to murder thousands on Sept. 11.

The government filed the new indictment last week, offering no explanation for the mostly minor revisions. In one substantive change, prosecutors deleted allegations that Moussaoui had inquired about crop-dusting planes and had information about them in his computer.

The 34-year-old Moussaoui, who is of Moroccan descent, is charged with conspiring to help the 19 hijackers and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network plot the September attacks on New York and Washington. He faces six conspiracy charges, including four that carry the death penalty.

Moussaoui had unsuccessfully sought permission Monday to have a Muslim lawyer from Houston, Charles Freeman, help him question a government witness and advise him during Tuesday's arraignment.

Brinkema had granted Moussaoui's request earlier this month to act as his own lawyer. But she refused to allow Freeman to participate in the case because he is not registered to practice law in Virginia and has not formally asked to enter the case as Moussaoui's attorney.

Moussaoui attempted Tuesday at one point to say that his refusal to enter a plea was equivalent to pleading no contest, but the judge told him that was ``completely inconsistent'' with his previous motions.

On Monday, Moussaoui questioned a witness, who was not identified in court papers. Prosecutors said the questions were limited to ``the formation of the Hamburg cell in Germany,'' and Brinkema noted in her order that the witness had entered into a plea agreement with the government.

Those clues suggest the witness was Agus Budiman, an Indonesian native who knew several of the hijackers in Hamburg and who pleaded guilty to one count of document fraud in March.

Budiman admitted to authorities that he knew hijacker Mohammed Atta from a mosque they attended in Hamburg and that he once helped Atta move into an apartment there in 1998. Another of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, listed Budiman's address on his visa application to enter the United States.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that Atta, Jarrah and another of the hijacker leaders, Marwan Al-Shehhi, were part of a terrorist cell in Hamburg. The indictment against Moussaoui alleges that another member of that cell, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, wired $14,000 to Moussaoui last August.

Frank Dunham Jr., the federal public defender appointed to represent Moussaoui, said Freeman has met with Moussaoui several times since May 24. He said Freeman wrote him a letter offering his assistance in defending Moussaoui.

The letter arrived in April, shortly after Moussaoui denounced his court-appointed lawyers as part of a conspiracy to kill him, Dunham said. He added Freeman's name to the list of people allowed to visit Moussaoui in jail, Dunham said, after Freeman was cleared by the government.

In a separate filing Monday, prosecutors urged Brinkema to deny Moussaoui's request to move his trial to Denver. They said the court should not presume that potential jurors in northern Virginia near the Pentagon would be prejudiced.

The government also asked Monday that it be permitted to withhold addresses of government witnesses and potential jurors. Under federal law, people charged with treason or other capital offenses must be given a list of witnesses and prospective jurors and their addresses at least three days before the trial.

Prosecutors argued that providing such information to Moussaoui would endanger the witnesses and jurors. They cited the indictment as well as Moussaoui's own words, including his declaration in court that he was praying for the destruction of the United States.