Moussaoui appeals, calling plea invalid
Lawyers claim he pleaded guilty without seeing secret evidence

Associated Press | February 26, 2008
By Matt Apuzzo

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 Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo Bay.

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.