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    9/11 Conspirator Moussaoui Sentenced to Life in Prison

    Confessed al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui was formally sentenced to life in prison Thursday for his role in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The sentencing by the judge in the case came one day after a federal jury spared him from the death penalty.

    Federal Judge Leonie Brinkema officially sentenced Moussaoui to life in prison without chance of parole. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the judge must impose the sentence recommended by the jury.

    There were some dramatic exchanges on the final day of the trial.

    As Moussaoui came into court, he declared, "God save Osama bin Laden. You will never get him!"

    Judge Brinkema told Moussaoui, "You came here to be a martyr and to die in a great bang of glory. But to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper."

    Prior to sentencing Moussaoui, the judge allowed family members who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks to speak to the defendant directly.

    Three of them did, including Rosemary Dillard. She lost her husband in the attack on the Pentagon.

    "I told him how he wrecked my life. He took the most important person from me, and that was my husband, Eddie Dillard," she said. "I think he will rot in jail and every day that he misses the sunlight and the freedom, as the judge said, will be another day that we win."

    Many family members said they agreed with the jury's decision to spare Moussaoui from the death penalty.

    But others were disappointed.

    "I think he deserved the death penalty and I am sorry he didn't get it," said Margaret Pothier, who lost her brother-in-law in the September 11 attacks.

    During the punishment phase of the trial, family members had to endure gruesome photographic evidence of the attacks as well as taunts from Moussaoui.

    "Through it all, the victims have triumphed through the terrorists rants through their strength, their courage and their character," said Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, the prosecutor who initially brought the government's case against Moussaoui.

    The sentencing was the last official act in a legal drama that began four years ago. Moussaoui was arrested three weeks before the 9/11 attacks after exhibiting bizarre behavior at a flight school in Minnesota. But he never told authorities what he knew about the plot.

    He pled guilty to six terror conspiracy charges last year, saying he was supposed to be part of a second wave of al-Qaida attacks.

    At least three members of the 12-member jury indicated that they thought Moussaoui was only a minor player in the 9/11 conspiracy. A death sentence requires a unanimous vote of the jury.

    "It is obvious that they thought that his knowledge of 9/11, his role in 9/11 was not very great, and that played a significant role in the result that we had," said Gerald Zerkin, who was one of Moussaoui's lawyers.

    Moussaoui is a French citizen of Moroccan descent and is the only person charged and convicted in connection with the September 11 attacks.

    French authorities say they may ask that Moussaoui serve his prison time in France. But Judge Brinkema said Moussaoui will be sent to a maximum security federal prison in Colorado, where he will be in a jail cell by himself 23 hours of every day. She added, you will never be able to speak publicly again and that is an appropriate ending.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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