January 3, 2002
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Alleged terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui to be tried on October 14

T V Parasuram in Washington

A Virginia court has set October 14 for the trial of alleged Al Qaeda terrorist mastermind Zacarias Moussaoui in connection with the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, on charges carrying the death penalty, after the accused entered the equivalent of a plea of not guilty.

Moussaoui - a 33-year old French citizen of Moroccan descent, was indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring with accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network to murder more than 3,300 people who perished when four hijacked jetliners crashed in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington on September 11, 2001.

Jury selection for the trial will begin on September 30, 2002.

Moussaoui, who hold a masters degree from a British university, appeared before the Virginia court under heavy security on Wednesday.

Dressed in a one piece dark green jumpsuit with the word 'prisoner' inscribed on the back, the bald, bearded Moussaoui told US district court judge Leonie Brinkema, "In the name of Allah, I do not have anything to plea and enter no plea. Thank you very much."

The judge said she presumed that he meant a plea of not guilty, which was agreed by Moussaoui's lawyer.

Prosecutors have been given time till March 29 to decide whether to seek death penalty or not. But in a move indicating that they will ask for death, the judge also set a hearing for May 16 to consider arguments concerning the death penalty.

Moussaoui was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota before September 11, after he aroused suspicion by trying to buy time on a Boeing 747 jet flight simulator at a flight school though he did not have pilot's license.

Though he was in custody at the time of the attacks, the indictment alleges that he was engaged in the same preparation for murder as the 19 hijackers.

According to the indictment, Moussaoui received money in July and August from Ramzi bin al Shibh, allegedly a member of a German terrorist cell, who was a roommate of Mohammed Atta, the suspected ringleader in the suicide attacks.

It alleges that Moussaoui was present at the Al Qaeda affiliated Khalden camp in Afghanistan 'in or about April 1998' and that during 2000 and 2001, his activities were closely tied to those of the hijackers.

It adds that he, like the rest, took flight lessons, purchased flight training videos, and showed an interest in crop-dusting.


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