ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Prosecutors asked a judge Thursday to deny a news media request to release pleadings by accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, contending they are not proper motions that deserve First Amendment protection.
The motions kept secret under an Aug. 29 court order should not be treated as normal court pleadings because they contain threats, racial slurs and calls to action, the government said. They also may send coded messages to Moussaoui's Al Qaeda supporters, prosecutors added.
Moussaoui is charged with conspiring with the Sept. 11 hijackers to commit terrorism and prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty if he is convicted. The 34-year-old French citizen is representing himself, although the judge has appointed a team of lawyers to assist him.
If the judge grants the news media request, the government added, a 30-day period is needed to review Moussaoui's filings to eliminate messages and offensive language. The news organizations asked for a 10-day review.
Moussaoui has admitted his loyalty to Al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden but denied conspiring with the 19 Sept. 11 suicide attackers.
Moussaoui's filings had been made public by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema before Aug. 29, when she ran out of patience with his repeated attacks on her, the court-appointed lawyers and Jews.
On Wednesday, for the first time since the order, Brinkema publicly released a Moussaoui motion -- a pleading that complained that he still lacked promised access to an Internet site maintained by his court-appointed legal team. The judge said Moussaoui cleaned up his language sufficiently to comply with her order.
Prosecutors said 25 of Moussaoui's motions have not been released, and should remain private along with future pleadings that abuse the court's standards.
"The defendant cannot be allowed simply to put a caption on his messages to other Al Qaeda members, file them with the court and thereby broadcast them to the world," the prosecutors said.
Moussaoui uses the pleadings to circumvent his strict conditions of confinement that bar communications with the outside world, the government contended, adding that coded messages are sometimes difficult to identify.
Arguing that the order was too broad and violated the First Amendment, the news organizations said, "The press and public have both the constitutional and common-law right to access his pleadings except where compelling interests required otherwise."
The organizations involved were The Associated Press, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Tribune Company, USA Today, The Washington Post, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.