Moussaoui wanted to kill as many people as possible, U.S. Prosecutor says

Zacarias Moussaoui wanted to kill as many people as possible in the Sept. 11 conspiracy, a prosecutor said in urging a jury to let the government continue seeking a death sentence.

``Zacarias Moussaoui came to this country to kill as many Americans as he could,'' prosecutor David Raskin said in closing arguments in the sentencing trial's initial phase in Alexandria, Virginia. ``That is exactly what he did.''

Defense lawyer Edward McMahon criticized his own client, saying jurors ``saw an arrogant, dangerous, stubborn person'' when Moussaoui testified two days ago that he plotted to fly a plane into the White House on Sept. 11. The lawyer said Moussaoui's only involvement in the plot ``was in his dreams.''

Moussaoui, 37, pleaded guilty last April to conspiracy charges linked to the attacks. He testified this week that he knew about the Sept. 11 plot when he was arrested on immigration charges Aug. 16, 2001, and that he lied to FBI agents because he wanted the attacks to go forward. He is the only person charged in the U.S. in connection with the attacks.

After instructions from U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, jurors will begin deliberating on the initial phase of the case to decide whether Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty. If he is, the trial will continue so jurors can decide whether he will be sentenced to death. A decision that he is ineligible for capital punishment would lead to a life prison sentence without parole.

Raskin said that if the government had known what Moussaoui knew the month before the attacks, three of the four hijacker pilots would have been put on a no-fly list. Hijacker Mohamed Atta ``wouldn't have gotten out of Boston,'' where his fatal flight originated, the prosecutor said.

``There are 3,000 people dead and the question is whether the information he had would have stopped it,'' another prosecutor, David Novak, told the federal court jury.

McMahon said Moussaoui's testimony this week was ``a tall tale, a whopper even for a convicted felon, a liar.'' The lawyer said, ``Moussaoui is obligated to lie to you because he's at war.''

His beliefs about the U.S. are the result of ``ignorance and prejudice,'' said McMahon, who said his client ``believes all of you, just because you are Americans, want to kill him.'' The defense lawyer said the government failed to prove its case and there was no evidence that Moussaoui was involved in the Sept. 11 plot, ``whatever he says,'' reports Bloomberg.

I.L.