ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the Sept. 11 attacks, wants less restrictive jail conditions, arguing he needs computer equipment and more workspace to assist lawyers in a case that could end with his execution.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema heard oral arguments on the requests Monday. She had reacted quickly to Moussaoui's complaints 10 days ago that he was too isolated and had too little workspace to help defend himself.
Moussaoui, 33, and American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, 21, are in near-total isolation in a 15-year-old jail a few miles from the Pentagon, target of one of the attacks.
Like the narrow openings in their cells that pass as windows to the outside, each is allowed only a small slice of normal life. Walker, for instance, gets to use the StairMaster exerciser he likes. Both have copies of the Quran, but may not participate in Muslim group prayers.
They are confined to their cells 22 hours a day without radio, television, videos or music. Even when taken for a shower or to the gym they do not interact with other prisoners. Officials say the danger of passing messages is too high.
The cells in the Alexandria Detention Center have no desks or chairs. But they also have no iron bars — just doors with a small window and a food slot. When Walker said his cell was cold, officials gave him long johns to wear under his green prison jumpsuit.
Capt. Dave Rocco, the jail's spokesman, said Walker has not violated any rules and Moussaoui, a French citizen, has had only minor violations.
Prosecutors said in court papers that Moussaoui kept food in his cell until it hardened, considered a health hazard. Moussaoui's violation was costly for the moment, since prosecutors said it will keep him — for the present — in the small high-security cell he wants to leave for larger quarters.
The daily lives of Walker and Moussaoui can be pieced together from sources familiar with their confinement, from Rocco's comments and from court filings in Moussaoui's bid to ease his restrictions.
Both men can have visits from immediate family, conversing on a telephone through a glass partition. Walker's parents have been regular visitors. Moussaoui, whose mother lives in France, has had no personal visits, according to Rocco.
Both their cells have fluorescent overhead lights, one bright, one dimmer, so officials can monitor them. After Moussaoui complained that the bright light stayed on 24 hours a day so he could be observed at a video monitoring station, the government agreed to turn it off at night.
Walker has lodged no public complaints about prison conditions with the judge overseeing his case.
Guards physically check both men about every 15 minutes by peering through the window in their doors.
Each man is confined under "special administrative measures," government rules that apply to a single prisoner. Prosecutors said they were worried about escapes, attacks on guards and coded messages to terrorists outside prison — all known Al Qaeda tactics. The indictments of Walker and Moussaoui contend both were associated with Uama bin Laden's network.
Moussaoui is charged as an accomplice in the Sept. 11 attacks and faces a possible death penalty if convicted. Walker is accused of conspiring to kill Americans and aiding terrorist networks.
Only the special regulations for Moussaoui have been made public so far.
Those rules require a prison staff member to initiate all calls to his attorney and confirm the lawyer's identity before giving Moussaoui the telephone. Phone calls to immediate family members are monitored and recorded.
Moussaoui's personal mail must be copied and analyzed, and could be seized if found to contain secret messages, encourage acts of terrorism or circumvent jail rules.
Any imam, or Muslim prayer leader, who visits must be approved by the government and cannot have physical contact with the prisoner.
Prisoners get three meals a day and Muslims need not worry about prohibited pork. It's never on the menu.