ALEXANDRIA, Va. (voa) – The first suspect indicted by U.S. prosecutors for conspiracy in the September 11 terrorist attacks invoked the name of Allah during his first day in court and refused to enter a plea.
The judge in the case said she took that to mean Zacarias Moussaoui was pleading innocent and his lawyers agreed.
Mr. Moussaoui – a Frenchman of Moroccan origin – appeared briefly Wednesday in the Alexandria, Virginia courtroom, outside Washington. The United States is charging Mr. Moussaoui with six counts of conspiracy to murder and maim. They allege he was part of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network which flew airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Judge Leonie Brinkema set October 14 as a trial date. She also gave prosecutors until the end of March to decide if they will seek the death penalty.
Mr. Moussaoui’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that the trial date was too close to the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Before boarding a flight back to France, the suspect’s mother, Aicha el Wafi, told reporters her son wrote a letter telling her he is innocent. She said she hopes justice will do its job, but said she refuses to see her son made a scapegoat.
Ms. el-Wafi came to the United States with a lawyer to help her son, but neither appeared in court Wednesday.
Authorities arrested Mr. Moussaoui in August on immigration charges after he raised the suspicions of instructors at a flight training school in Minnesota. They contacted the FBI after becoming suspicious of Mr. Moussaoui’s hostile attitude and poor performance.