ALEXANDRIA , Virginia (AP) – Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui insists he does not want to be executed, but for the second time he took the stand at his death-penalty trial and spouted off in a way that could eliminate any chance for mercy.
Moussaoui mocked the tearful testimony of Sept. 11 victims and their families and wished for similar attacks every day until America falls. He gave a detailed explanation of his hatred for America, flipping through a Quran on the witness stand trying to find justification for his views.
Moussaoui’s testimony Thursday at his death-penalty trial came as defense lawyers sought to show Moussaoui was crazy and prosecutors sought to show he was simply evil. Both sides made their point at various times, but the most visceral testimony came as Moussaoui again reveled in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, just one day after the jury concluded a week of gut-wrenching testimony from 9/11 families and victims.
Moussaoui called an Army officer who crawled on his belly to safety beneath searing smoke “pathetic” and ridiculed a Navy officer who wept as she described the loss of two colleagues.
“I think it was disgusting for a military person” to cry, Moussaoui said of the testimony of Navy Lt. Nancy McKeown. “She is military, she should expect people at war with her to want to kill her.”
Asked if he was happy to hear her sobbing, he said, “Make my day.”
Prosecutor Rob Spencer asked Moussaoui: “So you would be happy to see 9/11 again?” “Every day until we get you,” the 37-year-old Frenchman responded with gusto.
At other times, Moussaoui espoused beliefs that simply seemed bizarre. He insisted that President George W. Bush would free him from prison some time before his term ends in 2009, perhaps as part of a prisoner exchange. He said it was revealed to him in a dream, just like his plan to fly a plane into the White House.
Spencer tried several times to get Moussaoui to say he didn’t really think it would happen, but Moussaoui was resolute.
“I haven’t doubted it for one single second,” Moussaoui said.
Moussaoui said he didn’t think his previous testimony on March 27, in which he said publicly for the first time that he was to have piloted a fifth plane on 9/11, would hurt him with the jury. That testimony put Moussaoui at the center of the 9/11 plot in a way that prosecutors hadn’t even hoped to prove at the trial’s outset.
Moussaoui said Allah will protect him as long as he tells the truth, no matter what the jury thinks of him. Pressed by defense lawyer Gerald Zerkin if he thought he was helping his case, Moussaoui responded: “I was putting my trust in God, so from an Islamic point of view, yes,” acknowledging that non-Muslims might view his testimony as harmful. He denied that he is secretly sabotaging his case as a means to achieve martyrdom through execution. “I want to fight,” he said. He said that if he were in charge of his own defense he might have played up the notion that he could have been used as part of a prisoner exchange for captured American troops.
Moussaoui has taken the stand twice now in his own defense, both times against the advice of his court-appointed lawyers.
Defense lawyers say their client is lying about his role in Sept. 11. They point to four years of denials by Moussaoui of involvement in the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, and a lack of supporting evidence for his new claim. They suggest he either seeks martyrdom or an inflated role in history.
During his 2 1/2 hours on the stand, Moussaoui offered a lengthy explanation of why he hates Americans. Islam requires Muslims to be the world’s superpower, he said as he paged through the Quran. “We have an obligation to be the superpower. You have to be subdued,” Moussaoui said. “America is a superpower and you want to eradicate Islam.” He also criticized U.S. support for Israel, which he called “the Jewish state of Palestine.” “Every child who has been killed in Palestine has been killed because of you,” he said. Israel is “just a missing star in the American flag,” he added.
Moussaoui’s second act didn’t quite captivate the jury in the same way as his first appearance. Jurors did not feel compelled to keep their eyes on him through the duration of his testimony, as they did last month.
The trial resumes Monday. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema told jurors they will likely begin deliberations early next week. Moussaoui has already pleaded guilty and a jury has already found him eligible for the death penalty. The jury must now decide whether he should be put to death or be sentenced to life in prison.