Oklahoma | I went inside death row, what I saw made me sick - Henry McLeish

The evolution of civilised behaviour, indicating a retreat from barbarism, has become a distinctive feature of most modern western democracies, but America often disappoints, retaining practices that shock, sadden, and in my case, nearly made me physically sick.
My visit to death row at McAlester State Penitentiary, Oklahoma, brought home to me, how the final setting for government sponsored killings, combined with execution by lethal injection, brought a brutal end to lives. And made a mockery of the idea of justice, offering instead a violent, humiliating, and inhuman act of revenge, with no serious pretence that any of these end of life dramas, provide any deterrence in criminal justice terms. Formerly known as “Indian Territory”, and home of the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma, with a population of over 4 million, became a state in 1907. Located in America’s “Bible” belt, where there is a strong fundamentalist Christian tradition and powerful Republican politics, Oklahoma remains a pro…

Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted for the 9/11 attacks, renounces terrorism, al Qaeda and ISIS while serving a life sentence from behind bars at America's Supermax prison

Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man ever convicted in a US court for a role in the September 11 attacks, now says he is renouncing terrorism, al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Moussaoui is serving a life sentence at the Supermax federal prison in Colorado after narrowly escaping the death penalty at his 2006 trial. 

He was sometimes referred to as the missing 20th hijacker, and while he was clearly a member of al-Qaeda there is scant evidence to suggest he was slated to hijack a plane on September 11, 2001. 

Instead, prosecutors pinned responsibility on Moussaoui because they said he could have prevented the attacks if he had not lied to the FBI about his knowledge of al-Qaeda and its efforts to attack the US when he was arrested in August 2001.

In a handwritten court motion Moussaoui filed with the federal court in Alexandria last month, Moussaoui wrote, 'I denounce, repudiate Usama bin Laden as a useful idiot of the CIA/Saudi. I also proclaim unequivocally my opposition to any terrorist action, attack, propaganda against the US.'

He also said he wants 'to warn young Muslim against the deception and the manipulation of these fake Jihadis.'

His remarks are a far cry from his 2006 trial, when he taunted victims and flashed a victory sign after a jury opted to send him to prison for life rather than execute him. At his final sentencing hearing, he told the judge 'God save Osama bin Laden you will never get him.'

Bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. forces on a compound in Pakistan in 2011.

Moussaoui made his renunciation in a petition seeking relaxation of the special administrative measures under which he serves his sentence. 

In particular, he says he wants either Rudy Giuliani or Alan Dershowitz to represent him as a lawyer, so he can testify in a civil trial filed by victims of the September 11 attacks.

Prison documents filed with his motion indicate he received a response of some kind to a letter he wrote to the American Civil Liberties Union but was not allowed to see it because it was marked as privileged legal communication, and he is only allowed to receive the mail if the prison can can open and read it.

Moussaoui has a long history of writing letters to the court - indeed he served as his own lawyer for several years leading up to his trial and regularly wrote legal motions referring to himself as 'Slave of Allah,' a name he continues to use.

He has written numerous letters seeking to testify at the 9/11 civil trial, and at the military trials of al-Qaeda members including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But those requests have not included the explicit renunciation of terrorism that he includes in his most recent letter. 

As recently as 2018, he continued to refer to himself as a 'natural born terrorist' in court papers. In another handwritten motion that year, he concluded his motion with 'God Curse Ugly Satan of Abomination' in huge letters.

Katherine Donahue, an anthropology professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, who wrote a book about Moussaoui called 'Slave of Allah' after attending his 2006 trial, said she was unaware of any other instance in which Moussaoui had renounced terrorism or bin Laden. 

She said she expects he is being truthful, even though he admitted at his trial that he lied to the FBI after his arrest.

'He's been there 14 years. It's a long time to think about what you've done,' she said. 'I don't see him lying. ... There were so many ways he could have helped himself before by lying' but he didn't.

Terry Strada, whose husband died in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and is one of the plaintiffs suing Saudi Arabia for its alleged complicity in the attacks, was more skeptical.

'I don't trust him, that he's reformed himself in prison,' she said. 'I wouldn't trust him around anybody's youth.'

Lawyers representing the 9/11 plaintiffs did not return calls and emails seeking comment, nor did Giuliani or Dershowitz.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who presided over Moussaoui's trial and was regularly subjected to Moussaoui's insults in court papers, denied his request and said any grievance he has about the treatment he's receiving in prison should be filed in Colorado where he resides.

'Raising these issues with this Court is an act of futility,' Brinkema wrote.

Moussaoui has appealed her denial to the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

Source: dailymail.co.uk, R. Ortega, The Associated Press, May 21, 2020

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde


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