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Alleged '20th Hijacker' Moussaoui Withdraws Guilty Pleas

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 25, 2002 – The only man charged in connection with the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington will stand trial.

Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, took back guilty pleas and will stand trial in the federal court here. Earlier today, he had indicated he would plead guilty to four of the six charges against him.

After questioning Moussaoui, however, District Judge Leonie Brinkema rejected his pleas. The judge said she did not believe Moussaoui intended to admit his full guilt as laid out in the indictment.

Moussaoui, 34, was arrested in Minnesota in August 2001. He had been taking flying lessons. News reports indicate he brought suspicion on himself by not wanting to learn how to land aircraft.

The Frenchman of Moroccan decent is charged with six counts of conspiracy in conjunction with the terror attacks. These are conspiring to commit terrorism, to commit aircraft piracy, to destroy aircraft, to use weapons of mass destruction, to murder government employees and to destroy property.

He announced his intention to plead guilty during a court appearance June 18. He admitted then that he was a member of the al Qaeda terror group and had personally sworn allegiance to its leader Osama bin Laden.

Moussaoui is serving as his own defense attorney.

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