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Prosecutors Seek to Play Cockpit Recordings at Moussaoui Trial - 2002-09-24

Federal prosecutors preparing to try Frenchman Zacarias Moussaoui with conspiracy in connection with last year's terrorist attacks are asking a judge to allow them to play in court cockpit voice recordings from one of the four hijacked planes. The government believes the tapes will remove all doubt that he had direct links to the 19 hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Prosecutors say if they are allowed to play the cockpit voice recordings of the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania in court, they will be able to show Zacarias Moussaoui conspired with at least one of the terrorists on board.

Phone records show the 34-year-old defendant had called a telephone number that was found on a business card amid the plane wreckage, a card believed to belong to one of the September 11 hijackers. In documents filed in federal court Tuesday, prosecutors said when witnesses hear the voices on the cockpit recordings, they will be able to positively identify that hijacker. And by doing so, the government would establish a much closer link between Mr. Moussaoui and the terrorist hijackers than has so far been made in the conspiracy indictment against him.

The judge in the case has said she is not inclined to allow the government to play the tapes in court unless a compelling case can be made for doing so.

Some U.S. officials suspect Zacarias Moussaoui was meant to have been the 20 hijacker if he had not already been arrested a month earlier on immigration charges. He denies involvement in the hijackings, but does admit being an admirer of Osama bin laden and a member of al-Qaida. He is representing himself in a trial set to begin in federal court in Virginia in January.