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Terror Suspect Moussaoui Pleads Not Guilty - 2002-01-02

A Federal judge has entered a plea of not guilty to six counts of conspiracy, for suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. Mr. Moussaoui is the first person charged in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Moussaoui appeared in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, under tight security.

Mr. Moussaoui declined to enter a plea himself, telling the court, "In the name of Allah, I do not have anything to plead. I enter no plea." Judge Leonie Brinkema said she took that to mean that he was pleading innocent to the six charges of conspiracy.

Judge Brinkema announced that Mr. Moussaoui's trial would begin on October 14. Defense lawyers wanted the trial to begin later, fearing the October start date will be too close to the one year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. But Judge Brinkema said she thought publicity from the one-year anniversary would subside by mid-October.

Mr. Moussaoui is the first person charged in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Among the six charges he faces are conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit international terrorism. Four of the six counts carry the death penalty upon conviction. Prosecutors must decide by March 29 whether they will seek a death sentence.

Zacarias Moussaoui was detained in mid-August after arousing suspicions among instructors at a flight training school in Minnesota. Officials there became concerned about what they described as his belligerent behavior.

FBI officials say Mr. Moussaoui's activities during the past year closely parallel those of some of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks. The federal indictment against Mr. Moussaoui says he received al-Qaida terrorist training in Afghanistan and that he received money from a suspected al-Qaida operative in Germany who also sent money to some of the September 11 hijackers.

Mr. Moussaoui's mother said last week that her son has told her that he could prove his innocence in court. Her lawyer said she declined to attend the arraignment out of fear that her appearance in the courtroom would upset her son.