Zacarias Moussaoui wants to testify on al Qaeda terror financing

October 14, 2014

Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to conspiring in al Qaeda’s Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, says he has information about how al Qaeda financed its operations and he wants to provide it to lawyers representing terrorism victims.

After a federal jury in Brooklyn found Arab Bank liable last month for financing Hamas operations during the Second Palestinian Intifada, Moussaoui sent a handwritten letter to the clerk of the court from a super-maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, where he is serving a life sentence. (Moussaoui said he heard about the jury verdict on Fox News.) “I want to testify against financial institutions such as Arab Bank, Saudi American Bank, the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia” and several individuals, Moussaoui wrote, “for their support and financing of Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda from the time of the Eastern Africa embassy bombing, U.S.S. Cole bombing and 9/11.”

In the letter, which was docketed Friday in the Arab Bank case, Moussaoui said that plaintiffs’ lawyers representing victims of the Sept. 11 attacks have requested permission to meet with him but that prison officials have denied the request. Moussaoui also claimed that he has previously offered to testify about al Qaeda financing in letters to the judge overseeing the Sept. 11 victims’ consolidated litigation, U.S. District Judge George Daniels of Manhattan, but that he does not know if the prison has mailed them. The docket in that case does not show any communications from Moussaoui, who was once named as a defendant by Sept. 11 victims.

Moussaoui’s proposed testimony would probably not affect the Arab Bank case. For one thing, it’s not clear from his two-page letter to the court that Moussaoui really has information about al Qaeda’s financiers, although in its opinion upholding his plea and sentence, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals detailed Moussaoui’s supposed ties to bin Laden and his training in preparation for the Sept. 11 attacks. Moreover, even if Moussaoui can link specific banks to al Qaeda, that information wouldn’t be relevant to the Arab Bank case in Brooklyn, which centers on the bank’s purported support for Hamas attacks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Gary Osen told me it was unlikely the victims in his case would try to interview Moussaoui (though he didn’t entirely rule it out). An Arab Bank spokesman declined to comment on the Moussaoui letter, pointing instead to the bank’s newly filed motion for a new trial.

Moussaoui’s evidence, if he really has any, would probably be more important in the Sept. 11 terror-finance litigation. His letter to the Arab Bank court does not specify why he is offering to testify, though he requests that Jerry Goldman of Anderson Kill be appointed as his lawyer. Goldman told me he doesn’t know why Moussaoui asked for his appointment. Even if Goldman wanted the assignment, he said, he is conflicted because he is one of the lead lawyers for victims in the Sept. 11 case. Goldman declined to say whether victims’ lawyers have tried to contact Moussaoui, although he did say that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons “makes it very difficult.” Lawyers from another of the lead plaintiffs’ firms in the Sept. 11 case, Motley Rice, didn’t respond to my email request for comment. Motley Rice is also a lead firm in the Arab Bank case.

Moussaoui is confined under “special administrative measures” (SAM) because the government deems him a national security risk. That designation means that the warden of the prison in Florence can restrict his visitation, phone and mail privileges. A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons told me that even SAM inmates are permitted to write to federal courts but declined to comment on visitation requests.¬†Moussaoui’s most recent lawyer, Joyce Ellen Rosendahl, also declined to comment.

I reached out to one of the lawyers who represented Moussaoui at his criminal trial, federal public defender Gerald Zerkin in Richmond, Virginia, to ask whether Moussaoui really knows anything about al Qaeda’s financing. Citing attorney-client privilege, Zerkin told me he couldn’t say. He also pointed out that the conditions of Moussaoui’s imprisonment will make it exceedingly tough for any private lawyers to talk to him. “I wouldn’t hold my breath,” Zerkin said. “But it’s possible.”

(This piece has been updated to clarify that Rosendahl no longer represents Moussaoui.)

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