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Saturday, 19 January, 2002, 00:54 GMT
Networks' plea to televise trial denied
Passengers at Berlin Zoo station watch a video of Osama Bin Laden
The networks argued it was the world's right to watch
An American federal judge has rejected an appeal by US television networks to allow them to broadcast the trial of the first man charged in relation to the 11 September terrorist attacks.


Significant concerns about the security of trial participants and the integrity of the fact-finding process justify a ban on photographing and broadcasting

Judge Leonie Brinkema
Court TV had petitioned Judge Leonie Brinkema to overturn rules banning cameras from federal courtrooms and give the broadcast media access to the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.

The network's lawyers had argued the ban was unconstitutional and that the public had a right under the First Amendment to witness the proceedings for themselves, given the importance of the trial.

But Judge Brinkema ruled that the ban "does not violate the constitutional rights of either the public or the broadcast media", noting that both members of the public and the print media would be allowed access to the trial.

But more importantly, she said, there were "significant dangers" posed by worldwide broadcasting of the trial.

The Justice Department had argued that televising the trial, set for October, could endanger testifying witnesses and jurors.

Witness protection

Mr Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan decent, had backed a televised trial.

Zacarias Moussaoui
Moussaoui faces the death penalty if convicted
His lawyer re-iterated that broadcasting the proceedings would provide "an added layer of protection" in guaranteeing a fair trial.

But Judge Brinkema indicated her support for the stance of the Justice Department, which said it was concerned that witnesses' testimony would be affected if they knew they were on live television.

That, in turn, could affect the jurors, she said.

A bill has already been passed in the US Senate allowing the families of the victims of the 11 September attacks to view the trial on closed-circuit television.

A similar arrangement was made for relatives of those killed in the Oklahoma bombing for the trial of Timothy McVeigh.

Mr Moussaoui faces six charges including conspiring to commit terrorism, to hijack and destroy planes, and to use weapons of mass destructions.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Last week, the court in Virginia entered a plea of not guilty for him, after he refused to enter a plea himself.

He is alleged to be the 20th hijacker, the man who should have joined the 19 others who seized control of four planes on 11 September and crashed them in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, killing over 3,000 people.

See also:

05 Jan 02 | Americas
US terror suspect wants TV trial
02 Jan 02 | Americas
US terror suspect defies court
04 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysia holds 'militant Muslims'
13 Dec 01 | Americas
Open trial for US terror suspect
11 Dec 01 | Americas
America's first accused
02 Jan 02 | Americas
Courtroom view of terror trial
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