Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A federal appeals court in Richmond yesterday rejected a request by accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui that he be given direct access to three terror suspects being held as "enemy combatants" overseas as part of his defense - but said he could send them written questions.
In a ruling being described as a partial victory for the Justice Department in its long-delayed case against the suspected 20th conspirator in the September 11 attacks, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that granted access without permitting the face-to-face interviews that Moussaoui had sought.
The ruling, which was heavily redacted because of national security concerns, said that the problems associated with producing the witnesses for interviews were substantial, but that Moussaoui's interest in obtaining information from them was "integral to our adversarial criminal-justice system."
The appeals panel ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys to work with U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, who is hearing the case, to reach an agreement to allow Moussaoui access to the would-be witnesses.
"We are pleased with today's 4th Circuit ruling, which once again affirms our belief that the government can provide Zacarias Moussaoui with a fair trial while still protecting national security interests," Attorney General John Ashcroft said.
"Today's ruling reiterating the 4th Circuit's conclusions and unanimously denying Moussaoui's request for rehearing by the full court puts the Moussaoui prosecution back on track, and we look forward to presenting our case to the district court," he said. …