Al Qaeda detainees contradict Moussaoui testimony

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - Top al Qaeda operatives and others in US custody said in testimony today that Zacarias Moussaoui was untrustworthy and not part of the September 11 attacks.

One day after Moussaoui gave shocking testimony that he was meant to fly a plane into the White House as part of the September 11 plot, the men detained as US enemy combatants contradicted him.

Most of the testimony was read aloud from detainees who were forbidden from testifying because of national security concerns. Much of it questioned Moussaoui's competence, and the man said to be the financier of the September 11 attacks said he had had no involvement with Moussaoui.

Moussaoui is on trial to determine if he gets the death penalty for admitting guilt in connection with the attacks in New York and Washington which killed about 3,000 people.

Last year, when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the attacks, Moussaoui said he was meant to be in a second wave of attacks.

In an effort to rebut Moussaoui's own damaging admissions yesterday, defence attorney Edward MacMahon read a transcript from the hearing in which Moussaoui pleaded guilty and where he said he was not involved in the September 11 attacks.

The defence then rested its case. Closing arguments were scheduled for 1pm on Wednesday, after which the jury will begin deliberations.

As part of their effort to rebuild its case, the defence presented a statement from Sayf al-Adl, a senior member of al Qaeda's military committee, who said Moussaoui was "absolutely not" going to take part in the September 11 mission.

Mustafa al Hawsawi, the financier who gave several of the hijackers airline tickets to the United States, said he had "no knowledge" of Moussaoui's financial dealings.

A senior al Qaeda operative, known as Khallad, said Moussaoui broke security by phoning him every day during a trip to Malaysia in 2000.

Khallad, who was linked with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa and masterminded the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, was eventually forced to turn off his telephone.

In testimony from Riduan Isamuddin - known as Hambali - Moussaoui was depicted as "not bright in the head and having a bad character."

"According to Hambali, Moussaoui managed to annoy everyone he came in contact with," the testimony said, adding that Hambali said he did not trust Moussaoui.

Hambali - a top member of Jemaah Islamiah, an Asian group linked to al Qaeda - said Moussaoui spoke of dreams he had to fly a plane into the White House. Moussaoui also constantly suggested operations Jemaah Islamiah members thought were "ridiculous," according to the testimony.

Hambali said he eventually paid for a plane ticket to Europe in order to get Moussaoui to leave Malaysia.

Moussaoui, who was arrested on August 16, 2001, said he did not have many details of the plot but knew he was to fly a plane into the White House and that the towers of New York's World Trade Center were also to be targets.

In testimony later on Tuesday, an FBI agent disclosed that Moussaoui met with prosecutors last month to offer to testify against himself for the government in exchange for better jail conditions until he was executed. A deal was never made after Moussaoui refused to cooperate unconditionally and was told he had a constitutional right to testify regardless of any deal.

- REUTERS

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