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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Justice Department Will Not Allow Binalshibh to Testify at Moussaoui's Trial

Aired July 14, 2003 - 19:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: We start with the developing story out of Washington this evening. News that could jeopardize the trial of accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.
Let's go right now to justice correspondent Kelli Arena -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Justice Department has told a trial judge that it absolutely will not allow accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui to interview another al Qaeda member, even if it means that the case against him is dismissed.

Now, Moussaoui, remember, is the only person charged in the United States in connection to the September 11 attacks. And in documents filed this evening, the wording very stark. The government wrote, "Such a scenario is unacceptable to the government, which not only carries the responsibility of prosecuting the defendant, but also of protecting this nation's security at a time of war."

Now, if the judge does dismiss the case, the government says that it believes it has an automatic right to appeal. It has also left open the possibility that the judge may come up with some other way for it to satisfy the order.

To backtrack just a little bit, Judge Leonie Brinkema had ordered the government back in January to allow Moussaoui to interview a man by the name of Ramzi Binalshibh. Now Binalshibh is a self-admitted coordinator of the September 11 attacks. Moussaoui says that he has information that could clear him of any involvement.

So the judge ruled that Moussaoui had a constitutional right to interview Binalshibh, even though the government argued that interrupting his interrogation would jeopardize national security. The ball now is entirely in Judge Brinkema's court. She will decide what punishment to impose on the government -- Anderson.

COOPER: Now, Kelly, if she does decide to basically halt this trial, throw this thing out, as you indicated, the -- I think it's the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that said they may step in very quickly. Is that correct?

ARENA: That's right. The government feels that it has an automatic right to appeal. That appellate court has indicated that it may be amenable to hearing that case at that point. But they wanted to make sure that the government had defied the order, that Brinkema then issued a sanction that she would issue and then it goes forward from there. The government tried to usurp this whole process and have the appeals court deal with this before Judge Brinkema issued any sanction. They refused to do that.

COOPER: So bottom line is everyone just now waits on this judge's decision as to what the ruling is?

ARENA: That's right. Exactly.

COOPER: All right. Kelli Arena, thanks for the developing story. Continuing to follow that throughout the evening.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

Moussaoui's Trial>


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