May 4, 2006

Moussaoui Sentenced to Life

By Deborah Charles and James Vicini

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) - A defiant Zacarias Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday, one day after a jury spared his life and rejected U.S. government arguments that the September 11 conspirator should be executed.

"God curse America," Moussaoui shouted right before U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema imposed the sentence. "God save Osama bin Laden. You'll never get him."

Brinkema sentenced Moussaoui, 37, to life in prison with no possibility of release. An admitted al Qaeda operative, Moussaoui will almost certainly be sent to the super maximum security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, and his words at sentencing were probably his last public comments.

Dressed in a green prisoner jumpsuit and white cap, Moussaoui walked into the courtroom flashing a "V" for victory sign with his fingers. He sat with a broad smile on his face as he waited for his sentence.

After she sentenced Moussaoui, Brinkema said the jury's verdict showed that justice had been done.

"Every American, that is those who wanted to see this defendant executed and those who did not, should feel satisfied," Brinkema said.

"Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr and to die in a great bang of glory. But to quote T.S. Eliot, 'you will die with a whimper'," she added, referring to the famous poet.

Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, was in jail on September 11 after raising suspicions at a flight school.

The jury did not believe that Moussaoui's actions resulted in the deaths of about 3,000 people on September 11 -- a central part of the government's demand for the death penalty.

Three of the 12 jurors found that Moussaoui had limited knowledge of the September 11 attack plans. Some jurors also believed his role in the hijacking plot, if any, was minor.