Adam Ash

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Two French writers on the US trial of their French compatriot Moussaoui

1. Antidote -- by Gerard Dupuy (in Liberation)

The shadow of the biggest crime in history - the biggest committed by individuals, those of states and dictatorships being excluded, of course - hovers over the Moussaoui trial. If the court retains any connection whatsoever between Moussaoui and September 11, his sentencing to capital punishment is almost certain, and his execution, at the end of a possibly long delay, will become a very real possibility. For opponents of the death penalty, especially those on the spot in the United States where their fight is difficult (but not in vain), the months to come open a challenging time that could last years. Al-Qaeda is, in fact, the best propagandist for the electric chair. But the principles that underlie opposition to the death penalty cannot recognize any exception, and it's always the most apparently indefensible cases that prove those principles' full meaning. Moussaoui is entitled to as much commiseration as any other poor soul who agonizes over a slow fire on death row.

Before he reaches that point, it must be proven that he was an accomplice, at the very least by his silence, in the attack on the World Trade Center. That conclusion by the court is not yet a given. Certainly, Moussaoui is a pure product of Londonistan, of the famous and sinister Finsbury Park mosque and the throat-cutter Islamism preached there. It is possible that he was ejected, maybe in spite of his own desires, from the September 11 plot because of the organizers' doubts about his psychological stability. If that appears to be the case, the jurors will have to acknowledge it in spite of opposing pressures. In judging Moussaoui, American justice will judge itself before the whole world. We must hope that it will do so with strict respect to its own laws - which are, in themselves, the best antidote to all terrorism.

The majesty of the rule of law must be so great that even a deadly explosion like the one in the World Trade Center must not make it bat an eyelash.

2. Zacarias Moussaoui, Alone on the Defendants' Bench -- by Laurent Mauriac (Liberation)
The French citizen, whose trial really begins today, risks the death penalty if the prosecution succeeds in establishing his connection with the September 11 attacks.

The trial that really begins today in a Washington suburb is a lot more than the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui alone. Even if this 37-year-old Frenchman, arrested in August 2001, is only indicted for his preparation of terrorist acts and not for participation in the attacks, he is the only defendant to be tried for involvement in the September 11 attacks. Consequently, in the eyes of the American government, the media, and the victims' families, he is the only living figure associated with 2,973 deaths. It's "our only chance to obtain a minimum of justice," deems Sally Regenhard, the mother of a fireman who died at the World Trade Center, quoted yesterday by the New York Times. Screening rooms for broadcast of the trial have been set up in New York, Central Islip (Long Island), Boston, Philadelphia, Newark (New Jersey), as well as in Alexandria, the Washington suburb where these hearings are taking place, and more than 500 people are already signed up to attend. After a month already devoted to jury selection the trial could last for three months. More than 150 witnesses are expected.

Since Moussaoui was first charged, in December 2001, France has insisted that its citizen be exempt from the death penalty. The Minister of Justice discussed this Friday with his American counterpart in Paris. "I am certainly not unaware of the gravity of the acts of which Zacarias Moussaoui stands accused and of which he has pleaded guilty. Still, I reminded the Attorney General of France's position on the death penalty." Pascal Clement emphasized, moreover, that "France has obtained a guarantee that the intelligence it has provided will not be used directly or indirectly to support the demand for the death penalty."

For the prosecution, the whole point of the trial is to establish a connection between Moussaoui and the attacks. If it succeeds, he risks the death penalty. If not, he will do life in prison. In fact, Zacarias Moussaoui pleased guilty on April 22, 2005, acknowledging that he had participated in the preparation of "acts of terrorism, air piracy, destruction of airplanes, use of arms of mass destruction, assassination of American officials and destruction of property," but for a separate attack against the White House.

The prosecution will try to demonstrate that the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon would have been prevented had they been revealed; the defense, on the other hand, will plead that the Bush administration had already been warned of what was being planned and didn't do anything about it. That August, in fact, the president had received a CIA report entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike the United States."

Friday, the Pentagon revealed the name and nationality of most of the hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo after receiving an order to do so from a Federal judge in New York.


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