Judge rules out death penalty for 9/11 defendant

The Bush administration was yesterday involved in a desperate effort to keep alive its chances of prosecuting the only person charged over the attacks of September 11.

Federal prosecutors went to the US appeals court after a judge ruled out the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui. It cited the prosecutors' refusal to allow him to call alleged members of al-Qa'ida to support his not guilty plea.

Prosecutors said allowing Mr Moussaoui to question al-Qa'ida members held in US custody would threaten national security.

The case is central to the Bush administration's effort to show it is having success in its so-called war on terror. Mr Moussaoui, 35, is charged with conspiring with the hijackers involved in the attacks.

The prosecutors are refusing to allow Mr Moussaoui to cross-examine witnesses on whom they relying for parts of their case.

District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled out evidence that could link Mr Moussaoui to the hijackings and barred the death penalty after the prosecutors refused her order that Mr Moussaoui be allowed to question such witnesses.