Terrorist, Moussaoui files suit over jail conditions

WASHINGTON (BNW) -- Lawyers for accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui filed a court motion Friday objecting to his "overly restrictive and oppressive" prison conditions, arguing he needs more space in his prison cell, computer equipment and greater access to legal counsel while he prepares for his criminal trial this fall.

In the filing, Moussaoui attorneys argue his conditions of confinement are "unfair" when compared with those of other federal prisoners.

In addition, they say the conditions "create an insurmountable impediment to Moussaoui, an intelligent and well-educated man professing his innocence, from having any meaningful participation in the defense of his own life and from having full, free, and secure opportunity to communicate with counsel."

There was no immediate reaction from federal officials, including the U.S. Marshals, who have custody of Moussaoui.

Specifically, Moussaoui has requested:

-- A larger cell, with a table and chair
-- Laptop computer, printer, and the right to keep legal materials in his cell

-- Greater telephone access to his lawyers

-- Freedom from random prison searches

-- Freedom from having his phone conversations recorded
-- The right to meet with people besides his counsel

Lead defense attorney Frank Dunham confirmed the filing, but had no further comment.
Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, faces the death penalty. He is charged with four conspiracy counts linking him to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

He was taken into custody a month before the September 11 attacks, but some government investigators say he may have been the "20th hijacker," who was to have been aboard one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, Pentagon or in rural Pennsylvania.

Moussaoui is being held under tight security at the Alexandria Detention Center in suburban Virginia, blocks from the federal courthouse where his trial is to be held.

Reporters were shown a typical cell where federal prisoners are held at the facility. The cell measures about 80 square feet, roughly nine by nine feet, just enough room for a concrete slab bed, stainless steel toilet and small sink.

Moussaoui and other high-profile prisoners at the Alexandria jail, including "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, are kept in their cells all but one or two hours per day, according to prison officials. Their activities and movements are limited, and they are segregated from the rest of the prison population for their safety and that of other inmates, officials said.

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