9/11 terrorist loses his appeal

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The Independent US

Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in a US court on criminal charges related to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, lost a bid yesterday to overturn his guilty plea and a life sentence.

A US appeals court rejected arguments by Moussaoui, who is serving his sentence at a supermaximum federal security prison in Colorado, that his guilty plea was invalid because the US government failed to turn over classified evidence that could have helped in his defence.

"Moussaoui challenges the validity of his guilty plea and his sentences" on the six criminal conspiracy counts, the appeals court said in its ruling. "We affirm Moussaoui's convictions and sentences in their entirety."

The ruling occurred at a time of growing political debate over whether terrorism suspects should be tried in the regular US court system or in special military tribunals.

Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking part in an al Qaeda conspiracy to crash hijacked planes into US buildings. The conspiracy included the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

In 2006, a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, sentenced Moussaoui to life in prison, rejecting demands by prosecutors that he get the death penalty.

Moussaoui testified at his trial that he was supposed to hijack a fifth plane and crash it into the White House. He was arrested several weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks after raising suspicions at a Minnesota flight school.