WASHINGTON:The only man ever convicted in a US court for a role in the 9/11 attacks has said he is renouncing terrorism, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Zacarias Moussaoui is serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Colorado after narrowly escaping the death penalty at his 2006 trial.
Prosecutors argued that he could have prevented the attacks if he had not lied to the FBI about his knowledge of al-Qaeda and its efforts to attack the US when he was arrested in August 2001.
In a handwritten court motion filed with the federal court in Alexandria last month, Moussaoui wrote: “I denounce, repudiate Osama bin Laden as a useful idiot of the CIA/Saudi. I also proclaim unequivocally my opposition to any terrorist action, attack, propaganda against the US.”
He also said he wanted “to warn young Muslim against the deception and the manipulation of these fake jihadis”.
His remarks are a far cry from his 2006 trial, when he taunted victims and flashed a victory sign after a jury opted to send him to prison for life rather than execute him.
At his final sentencing hearing, he said “God save Osama bin Laden.” Bin Laden was killed in a raid by US forces on a compound in Pakistan in 2011.
Moussaoui made his renunciation in a petition seeking relaxation of the conditions under which he serves his sentence. In particular, he says he wants either Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani or Alan Dershowitz to represent him as a lawyer, so he can testify in a civil trial filed by victims of the 9/11 attacks.
He has written numerous letters seeking to testify at the 9/11 civil trial, and at the military trials of al-Qaida members including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
But as recently as 2018, he continued to refer to himself as a “natural born terrorist“ in court papers. In another handwritten motion that year, he concluded his motion with “God Curse Ugly Satan of Abomination” in huge letters.
Katherine Donahue, who wrote a book about Moussaoui after attending his 2006 trial, said she was unaware of any other instance in which he had renounced terrorism or Bin Laden.
“He’s been [in prison] 14 years. It’s a long time to think about what you’ve done,” she said. “I don’t see him lying. There were so many ways he could have helped himself before by lying” – but she said he didn’t.
Terry Strada, whose husband died in the attack on the World Trade Center and is one of the plaintiffs suing Saudi Arabia for its alleged complicity in the attacks, was more skeptical.
“I don’t trust him, that he’s reformed himself in prison,” she said. “I wouldn’t trust him around anybody’s youth.”
US district Judge Leonie Brinkema, who presided over Moussaoui’s trial and was regularly subjected to Moussaoui’s insults in court papers, denied his request and said any grievance he has about the treatment he is receiving in prison should be filed in Colorado, where he resides.
On August 16, 2001, Moussaoui,a French citizen was arrested in Minnesota by the FBI and charged with an immigration violation. He aroused suspicion while taking flight training courses in Eagan, Minnesota.
On December 11, 2001, Moussaoui was indicted by a federal grand jury in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on six felony charges: conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy, conspiracy to destroy aircraft, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to murder United States employees, and conspiracy to destroy property.
Moussaoui was alleged by federal prosecutors to have been a replacement for the “first” 20th hijacker, possibly Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Bin al-Shibh and Zakariyah Essabar were denied visas. However, prosecutors in Moussaoui’s drawn-out trial in the US had difficulty directly connecting him to the 19 participants.
Aicha el-Wafi, Moussaoui’s mother, was 14 when she was married to a man that she did not previously know, in Morocco.Five years later, Moussaoui’s parents moved to France, where he was born. After enduring domestic violence, his mother left his father Omar while her four children were still young.She raised her children on a cleaner’s wages. There was no religious education within the family. Witnesses testified at Moussaui’s trial that, as first-generation immigrants from Morocco, the family frequently faced racism in their new country.From 1982, Moussaoui, his brother and sisters, were brought up in a bungalow on the edge of the town of Narbonne. His mother has said that she believes two ‘wounding’ incidents in his French adolescence contributed to the formation of an extremist sensibility: the first the day that his school careers adviser pushed him towards minor, technical studies, with “the clear implication that he was only an Arab and would need nothing more,” and the second the day that the father of his teenage sweetheart warned him off because he was an Arab. “Don’t think that you will ever get your feet under my table,” the man said.
Moussaoui has been known by other names, reportedly including Abu Khaled al Sahrawi and Shaquil while he was in Oklahoma. He holds a master’s degree in International Business from South Bank University in London, having enrolled in 1993 and graduated in 1995. He attended, amongst others, the Brixton Mosque,where he may have met Richard Reid, the future shoe bomber. He was proselytised by groups such as al-Muhajiroun (“the Emigrants”), who leafleted people attending moderate mosques such as that in Brixton. Moussaoui was expelled from the Brixton mosque after he began wearing combat fatigues and a backpack to the mosque, and pressured the cleric to provide him with information on how to join the jihad. It is possible that he had connections with members of the Finsbury Park mosque, where the extremist Abu Hamza al-Masri taught.
French authorities began monitoring Moussaoui in 1996 when they observed him with Islamic extremists in London.
In 1998, he attended the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan, allegedly returning the next year as well. In September 2000, he visited Malaysia and stayed in a condominium owned by Yazid Sufaat who, in October 2000, signed letters identifying Moussaoui as a representative of his company. Two of the September 11 hijackers lived in the same condominium in January 2000. Jemaah Islamiah leader Riduan Ismauddin sent cohort Yazid Sufaat to provide Moussaoui with $35,000 USD and travel documents in Malaysia in October.
From February 26 to May 29, 2001, Moussaoui attended flight training courses at Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma. Despite 57 hours of flying lessons, he failed and left without ever having flown solo. This school was visited by Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who piloted planes into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center.