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Moussaoui appeals, calling plea invalid

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Lawyers claim he pleaded guilty without seeing secret evidence

Associated Press
February 26, 2008

WASHINGTON — Lawyers urged Zacarias Moussaoui not to plead guilty to
terrorism charges. They just couldn’t tell him why.

In newly filed court documents, Moussaoui argues that court-imposed secrecy
undermined his ability to present an adequate defense. His new lawyers say Moussaoui’s
guilty plea should be thrown out and a new trial should be convened for the
man who once claimed to have been a part of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist plot.

Moussaoui was not allowed to see the classified evidence against him and was
shut out from closed-door hearings in which that evidence was laid out.

Defense lawyers say they were barred from even discussing with Moussaoui evidence
that could help prove his innocence. They say Moussaoui faced an unconstitutional
choice: plead guilty or go to trial without knowing the evidence.

"Moussaoui appeals because his plea was unknowing, uncounselled and invalid,"
attorneys Justin Antonipillai and Barbara Hartung wrote.

The documents, filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond,
Va., raise a fundamental question about whether terrorism suspects like Moussaoui
should be given access to all the evidence against them — access that
is normally guaranteed in criminal cases.

The Bush administration has sought to avoid such conflicts by keeping most
terrorism cases out of civilian courts. Instead, officials plan to try several
cases before special military commissions at the Guantánamo Bay naval base,
where judges have broad authority to limit what evidence detainees can see.

Because Moussaoui’s appeal deals solely with civilian law, it won’t directly
affect the military commissions, even if he wins. But lawyers say the Bush administration
increasingly cites national security concerns to justify keeping evidence from
defendants in criminal cases and they see that as a flaw that persists at Guantánamo

Since being sentenced to life in prison, Moussaoui has said he lied when testifying
that he was to hijack a fifth jetliner on Sept. 11. He has returned to claiming
that he had nothing to do with the suicide hijackings.

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Alleged arch-terrorist Abu Zubaydah, whom the CIA waterboarded in secret overseas
interrogations, has agreed to let two American attorneys challenge his detention.

Chicago law professor Joseph Margulies and Washington, D.C., lawyer Brent Mickum
said Tuesday that they secured the authority in 12 hours of meetings Friday
and Monday at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

It was the first time a defense attorney has been allowed to see the captive,
who once ran a military training camp in Afghanistan, in nearly six years of
U.S. detention.