News World ‘9/11 hijacker’ offers to assist in terror cases
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‘9/11 hijacker’ offers to assist in terror cases

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The man who became known as the “20th hijacker” from the September 11, 2001, attacks wants to testify in lawsuits filed by victims of terrorism.

The imprisoned Zacarias Moussaoui recently wrote to federal courts in New York and Oklahoma, claiming he can offer inside information about the inner workings of al-Qaeda to boost legal claims that the government of Saudi Arabia and financial institutions supported terrorism.

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Some lawyers have taken him seriously enough to interview him at the Supermax federal prison in Colorado, where he is serving a life sentence. But other observers are sceptical, saying it could be a desperate grab for leniency or relevancy.

“Even if he somehow got to the point where he could testify, there would be a credibility issue,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. “Would his testimony be valuable? That’s doubtful.”

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Zacarias Moussaoui.

The offers are also clouded by his record of changing his account of his involvement in the September 11 plot and his erratic behaviour in court.

Even so, his attempts to cooperate in the civil cases stand in contrast to the defiant attitudes of other al-Qaeda defendants who have endured after years of confinement without volunteering information except for claims they were tortured.

Moussaoui, 46, a French citizen of Moroccan descent who refers to himself in writing as “Slave of Allah,” was arrested on immigration charges in August 2001 after employees of a Minnesota flight school became alarmed that he wanted to learn to fly a Boeing 747 even though he had no pilot’s licence. He was in custody on September 11 and pleaded guilty in April 2005 to conspiring with the hijackers to kill Americans.

The plea initially seemed to subdue the mercurial Moussaoui, who during a three-year legal fight repeatedly insulted the judge and tried to fire his lawyers. But his combustible side re-emerged at his death penalty proceedings, when he surprised everyone by testifying that he had planned to pilot a plane into the White House on September 11.

One psychologist called by his defence lawyers testified that he believed Moussaoui had paranoid schizophrenia. Jurors ultimately spared his life.