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Moussaoui Praying for Destruction of US, Israel - 2002-04-23


The only suspect charged in connection with last September's terrorist attacks in the United States has told an American court he is praying for the destruction of the United States and Israel. Zacarias Moussaoui is refusing to cooperate with his lawyers and says he is prepared to represent himself when his trial begins later this year.

His appearance in court Monday was supposed to be a routine hearing to address conditions of his detention. Instead, Zacarias Moussaoui sent his case tumbling into an unexpected twist by declaring before a federal judge that the government has no interest in giving him a fair trial and really wants to see him executed.

In a statement that lasted nearly an hour, he frequently quoted from the Koran, at times speaking in Arabic, while slamming his government-appointed lawyers. They understand nothing about terrorism or this case, he said in heavily accented English. He demanded he be allowed to represent himself or hire his own Muslim lawyers who he said will understand the meaning of holy war.

The 33-year-old French citizen, who was born in Morocco, is being held in a Virginia jail, charged with conspiring with supporters of Osama bin Laden to carry out last September's terrorist attacks. A pilot in training, prosecutors allege he would have become the 20th hijacker if he had not already been detained on immigration charges a month before.

The federal judge presiding at Monday's hearing ordered Mr. Moussaoui to undergo psychiatric tests before deciding whether to allow him to dismiss his court appointed lawyers. With the government freezing his assets, it's far from clear where he would find the money to hire his own lawyers even if the court grants him that right. His trial is scheduled to begin in October.

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