Suspected terrorist wants to fire his lawyers
and Phil Hirschkorn
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Blasting his defense team as "a sophisticated version of the Trojan horse," a defiant Zacarias Moussaoui told a federal judge Monday he didn't trust his attorneys and wanted to fire them.
The suspected terrorist also called for the destruction of the United States and Israel, and quoted from the Koran and called himself a "slave of Allah."
"America, I am ready to fight ... even with both hands tied behind my back," Moussaoui declared, reading from a prepared, handwritten statement.
Speaking in heavily accented English, Moussaoui said he wanted a Muslim lawyer and said if he couldn't get one, he would represent himself. Moussaoui, the first suspect charged in connection with the September 11 attacks, also told the judge he didn't want a trial by jury, but wanted his case decided by the judge instead.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema deferred judgment on Moussaoui's requests, ordering him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. She said she would not release his lawyers until he was able to find another lawyer to represent him.
Chief defense attorney Frank Dunham said Moussaoui wasn't in the right frame of mind to make the request, citing his incarceration in solitary confinement. He told the court that Moussaoui's comments were "somewhat of a surprise, but not a total surprise."
Charges related to September 11 attacks
Moussaoui, 33, of France, is charged with terrorism conspiracy under a six-count indictment for allegedly planning to participate in the deadly hijacking of four U.S. commercial jets, which crashed into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. His trial is scheduled to begin in September.
Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty, allege that Moussaoui underwent similar flight training in the United States and weapons training in Afghanistan as the 19 hijackers aboard the fatal flights.
Moussaoui was in a Minnesota jail on an immigration violation a month before the attacks.
Monday's hearing was supposed to center on what Moussaoui's attorneys have described as the "overly restrictive" conditions placed on their client's detention, as his attorneys allege.
But Moussaoui turned the proceedings upside down when he waved for attention and, with the judge's permission, stood and addressed the court.
Flanked by two marshals, he proclaimed that his four attorneys were motivated by "greed, fame and vanity." He said he doubted whether the judge could be "an honest broker," calling her a "field general" and said President Bush was only interested in "wanting me to be over quickly."
Even though he criticized the judge, Moussaoui said he would rather have her, rather than a jury, deliver a verdict because, he said, the U.S. government tries to "overwhelm" juries with reams of complicated information.
Only a judge, said Moussaoui, could "see through the trick of the government."
When the judge pointed out that his attorneys had the legal experience to guide him through the U.S. court system, Moussaoui muttered in reply, "Experienced all right, experienced in deception."
Brinkema said if she grants his request to dismiss his lawyers, she hoped they would remain on a stand-by basis to advise Moussaoui on how to handle himself in court. But the defendant nixed that idea, saying he would no longer talk to his four-person defense team.
He said he would rather try to hire a Muslim lawyer who might work for free or accept as payment his $30,000 in the bank -- money now frozen by the U.S. government.
In court papers filed over the last ten days, Moussaoui's attorneys said the conditions of his pretrial incarceration -- in near total isolation, in a small cell, under 24-hour a day surveillance -- are unfair and inhibit his ability to prepare for his defense. Fluorescent lights shine on Moussaoui 24 hours a day, so he can be observed.
In a compromise announced at the hearing, the Alexandria Detention Center is constructing a secure room, separate from his cell, with a computer so Moussaoui can access documents related to the case. None of that evidence was available for review until two weeks ago.
Jail officials will also dim the brighter of two lights in Moussaoui's cell at night.
Moussaoui disputed government concerns that prohibit his interaction with other inmates and limit his phone calls to family or attorneys.
"I do not want to contact with people on the outside...I want to defend my life," he said.
But prosecutors argued against easing those restrictions. "Even one message could be fatal," said prosecutor Ken Karas.
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