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Testimony concludes in Moussaoui trial

The judge in the death-penalty trial of the 9/11 conspirator has said the case is one of the most complex criminal cases in US history.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2006 11:40 IST

The judge in the death-penalty trial of Sept 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui has said the case is one of the most complex criminal cases in American history, but jurors now face a very simple question: Does Moussaoui deserve to die?

Testimony in the six-week trial concluded on Thursday after prosecutors conceded they have no evidence to support Moussaoui's claim that he and so-called shoe bomber Richard Reid were going to team up to fly a plane into the White House on 9/11 and that FBI analysts find such a possibility highly unlikely.

Jurors also heard a government psychiatrist rebut defence claims that their client is a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers delusions.

Closing arguments are set for Monday, after which jurors must decide between two options: death or life in prison.

The disclosure about Reid goes directly to the dispute over the credibility of Moussaoui's testimony.

He stunned the courtroom March 27 by recanting years of denying any involvement in the Sept 11, 2001, attacks and telling jurors that he and Reid were to have hijacked a fifth jetliner that day.

Moussaoui's court-appointed defence team, with whom he does not cooperate, argues that Moussaoui was lying either to achieve martyrdom through execution or to enhance his role in history as an Al-Qaeda terrorist.

Defence lawyers tried to bring Reid to court from federal prison, where he is serving life for attempting to detonate a shoe bomb on a trans-Atlantic flight in December 2001. That bid was thwarted.

But defence lawyers and prosecutors agreed on a written stipulation about Reid that was read to the jury.

"No information is available to indicate that Richard Reid had pre-knowledge of the Sept. 11 operation or was instructed by Al-Qaeda leaders to conduct an operation in coordination with Moussaoui," it said.

For one thing, Reid named Moussaoui as the beneficiary in his will. Two FBI analysts concluded that was an unlikely choice if they were going to be on a joint suicide mission.

The government-appointed psychiatrist, Raymond Patterson, testified that Moussaoui, who frequently hurls insults and derisive jokes at his lawyers and others, is not mentally ill. Instead, he is what would be colloquially described as "a character."

He said Moussaoui's often incoherent written court motions and his dream-driven belief that President George W Bush will release him were not evidence of the disorganised thinking or delusions. His belief that Bush will set him free is a religious conviction, Patterson said, and no more delusional than other religious beliefs, Patterson said.

On cross-examination, Patterson refused to concede that Moussaoui's belief he will be freed is irrational, saying it is plausible that Moussaoui could be freed as part of a hostage exchange.

"I know we traded arms for hostages," Patterson said, referring to the Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal.

Patterson also acknowledged on cross-examination that he had done no research about how Muslims relate dreams to prophecy, and said he was satisfied that Moussaoui quoted to him a Quranic verse about the importance of dreams.

Moussaoui is the only person charged in this country in the Sept 11 attacks. The jury earlier found him eligible for execution by determining that his actions caused at least one death that day.

Although Moussaoui was in jail on Sept 11, the jury ruled that lies he told federal agents when he was arrested in August 2001 on immigration violations allowed the plot to go forward.

The trial has included testimony from nearly 60 Sept 11 victims and their families who told heartbreaking stories about the attacks and their aftermath.