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Thursday, 28 March, 2002, 18:38 GMT
US seeks death penalty in terror case
Zacarias Moussaoui
Moussaoui is due to go on trial in September
US prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged over the 11 September attacks.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, who must approve all federal death penalty cases, accepted the recommendation of his prosecutors on Thursday.

We remain committed to carrying out justice in this case and also ensuring that the rights of the victims are protected

John Ashcroft
Mr Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, is accused of conspiring with Osama Bin Laden, the hijackers and others to commit the attacks on the US.

His trial is scheduled to be held in Alexandria, Virginia in the autumn.

The French Government has expressed regret at the decision, saying it will not provide evidence that could lead to a death sentence.

Mr Ashcroft said the decision to pursue the death penalty stemmed from the impact the attacks had had on thousands of victims.

"We remain committed to carrying out justice in this case and also ensuring that the rights of the victims are protected," Mr Ashcroft said.


The BBC's Rob Watson in Washington says the decision is somewhat surprising.

Under no circumstances shall we transmit a piece of evidence if it could be used to back up a death sentence

French Justice Minister Marylise Lebranchu
Mr Moussaoui was in prison on the day of the attacks, which may make it difficult to convince a jury of his direct involvement in the killings.

And so far, there has been only circumstantial evidence presented by prosecutors linking him to the other 19 hijackers.

The move is also likely to spark new criticism from European nations opposed to capital punishment.

Until now France has been providing the US with extensive information about Mr Moussaoui.

But on Thursday Justice Minister Marylise Lebranchu said no evidence that could be used to back up a death penalty would be given to the US authorities.

'No remorse'

Court papers accuse Mr Moussaoui of having been "intentionally and specifically engaged in an act of violence, knowing that the act created a grave risk of death".

Zacarias Moussaoui in a photograph taken at Brixton tube station in London
Mr Moussaoui had lived in London

Prosecutors said Mr Moussaoui's actions resulted in the deaths of about 3,000 people, the largest loss of life stemming from a criminal act in US history.

They added he "has demonstrated a lack of remorse for his criminal conduct".

Mr Moussaoui was detained in mid-August last year, after arousing suspicions while seeking flight training in Minnesota.

Appearing in federal court in January, Mr Moussaoui refused to enter a plea.

The court entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

The BBC's Nick Hawton
"Moussaoui is the only person yet charged with the 11 September attacks"
US Attorney General John Ashcroft
"I have authorised the US attorneys to seek the sentence of death"
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Rivassaux
"France is opposed to the death penalty"
See also:

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