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Zacarias Moussaoui Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

(CNN) — Here’s a look at the life of convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, who is serving a life sentence in prison without parole for his part in plotting the 9/11 attacks.


Birth date: May 30, 1968

Birth place: St. Jean-de-Luz, France

Birth name: Zacarias Moussaoui

Father: Omar Moussaoui

Mother: Aicha el-Wafi

Education: South Bank University, London, M.S. in international business, 1995

Other Facts

Investigators said Moussaoui attended mosques in Great Britain with suspected al Qaeda connections. One of those mosques was where convicted terrorist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was the prayer leader.

After a mental health evaluation, the judge allowed Moussaoui to represent himself, only to end his pro-se representation when his filings were cited as “inflammatory and unprofessional.”

Moussaoui has stated in court that he belongs to al Qaeda and is loyal to Osama bin Laden.

Prosecutors said that Moussaoui attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan in 1998.

A search of Moussaoui’s belongings shortly after 9/11 turned up Boeing 747 flight manuals, two knives, an aviation radio, information on aerial application of pesticides and a notebook containing German telephone numbers.


1996 – French authorities begin monitoring Moussaoui when they notice him with Islamic extremists.

1999 French authorities place Moussaoui on a watch list.

September 2000 Moussaoui visits Malaysia and stays in the same condo where two of the September 11 hijackers stayed in January 2000.

February 26-May 29, 2001 Moussaoui trains at the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma. He takes more than 50 hours of flying lessons but leaves without a pilot’s license.

August 1 and 3, 2001 – Moussaoui is allegedly wired $14,000 from Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an alleged al Qaeda operative. The money is wired from Dusseldorf and Hamburg, Germany.

August 16, 2001 – Moussaoui is arrested in Minnesota on immigration issues. The Minneapolis FBI was alerted to Moussaoui after he aroused suspicions at the Pan Am International Flight Academy. Pan Am considered Moussaoui suspicious because he had no prior aviation experience, paid in cash and only wanted to learn how to take off and land the plane.

August 2001 Minnesota FBI agents are refused permission by the Washington, DC, office to obtain a search warrant for Moussaoui’s computer.

September 2001 Moussaoui is identified as a possible 9/11 conspirator and potential fifth hijacker on Flight 93, the only plane with four instead of five hijackers. Also, the US government states that he was to have piloted a fifth jetliner that would have targeted the White House.

December 11, 2001 A federal grand jury indicts Moussaoui on six counts of conspiracy related to the September 11 attacks, including conspiracy to destroy aircraft and murder US employees.

January 2, 2002 Moussaoui is arraigned. He declines to enter a plea for himself, writing “In the name of Allah, I do not have anything to plead.” US District Judge Leonie Brinkema enters a not guilty plea on his behalf.

June 25, 2002 At the arraignment for a superseding indictment with amended charges, Moussaoui again refuses to enter a plea, and then tries to plead “no contest.” Again, the judge refuses to accept the plea, believing Moussaoui does not understand the law, and enters a not guilty plea on his behalf. A month later, a second superseding indictment against Moussaoui is filed, with adjustments to make him eligible for the death penalty.

September 24, 2002 Prosecutors file a motion that says a business card that belonged to alleged lead hijacker Ziad Jarrah was found in the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, field where UA Flight 93 crashed. Written on the back of the card was a telephone number that prosecutors claim Moussaoui had called.

September 26, 2002 The government acknowledges that it mistakenly turned over 48 classified documents to Moussaoui. All documents are eventually recovered.

May 14, 2003 – Moussaoui claims that at the time of the 9/11 attacks, he was preparing for a different al Qaeda operation which would have taken place later, and not in the United States. Moussaoui’s revelation comes in a brief filed by defense attorneys assisting him with his pre-trial appeal.

October 2, 2003 – The judge rules that the government will not be able to present evidence that Moussaoui had advance knowledge of or participated in the attacks. The sanction comes after the prosecution refuses to follow her earlier order to produce defense witnesses, namely, three high-ranking al Qaeda captives. Brinkema also strikes the death penalty from the indictment and stays the order pending an appeals court review.

April 22, 2004 The Court of Appeals decides that the government may introduce evidence of the attacks in which Moussaoui is charged as a conspirator, and can pursue the death penalty against him, overturning Brinkema’s ruling.

June 2004 Moussaoui’s exact role in the attacks is determined to be “unclear” by the 9/11 Commission.

September 13, 2004 The Court of Appeals orders the Moussaoui case sent back to district court so attorneys from both sides can compromise on how to grant Moussaoui access to information supplied by al Qaeda captives, that he says would help absolve him of the most serious charges against him.

March 21, 2005 Without stating its reasons, the Supreme Court refuses to hear Moussaoui’s appeal.

April 22, 2005 – Moussaoui pleads guilty to all six counts against him.

January 24, 2006 Moussaoui’s lawyers announce they will present witnesses who will testify their client suffers from schizophrenia. The expert testimony will be presented during the penalty phase of the trial.

February 6, 2006 Jury selection begins. Moussaoui is removed twice from the courtroom for disruptive outbursts, including statements like, “I want to be heard. I do not want to be represented by these people”… “They are not my lawyers. I am al Qaeda. They do not represent me. They are American”… “This trial is a circus.”

March 6, 2006 The jury is selected and sworn in. Seven women and 10 men are chosen as the 12 jurors, with five alternates. Moussaoui was barred from jury selection due to his frequent outbursts.

March 27, 2006 Moussaoui testifies at his sentencing trial, over objections from his attorneys. He admits he knew about a plot to crash airplanes into the World Trade Center and says he was supposed to pilot a plane into the White House with a crew, including convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid.

April 3, 2006 The jury decides Moussaoui is eligible for the death penalty. The jury now has two choices for Moussaoui’s punishment – death by lethal injection or life in prison.

May 3, 2006 – The jury recommends a life sentence without parole for his part in plotting the 9/11 attacks. He is formally sentenced by Judge Brinkema on May 4.

May 13, 2006 Moussaoui is transferred to the nation’s highest security penitentiary near Florence, Colorado, to serve his life sentence.

May 23, 2006 Bin Laden releases an audiotape in which he refutes Moussaoui’s confession, “I am the one in charge of the 19 brothers, and I never assigned brother Zacarias to be with them in that mission…”

February 26, 2008 Moussaoui’s lawyers ask the appeals court in Virginia to revoke his guilty plea, stating that his original lawyers were not permitted to discuss crucial, classified evidence about the case with him, and that this violated his constitutional rights.

January 26, 2009 Lawyers for Moussaoui present oral arguments before the court of appeals in a bid to win their client a new trial.

January 4, 2010 The US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirms Moussaoui’s conviction and life sentence.

November 2014 – In two handwritten letters filed in federal courts in New York and in Oklahoma, Moussaoui claims that Saudi Embassy officials were involved in a plan to shoot down Air Force One to assassinate President Bill Clinton and/or Hillary Clinton during a trip to the United Kingdom.

February 3, 2015 – In a sworn statement submitted as part of an ongoing civil case by the families of 9/11 victims, Moussaoui alleges members of the Saudi royal family supported al Qaeda.

February 16, 2017 – The Military Commissions Trial Judiciary receives a letter from Moussaoui offering to testify in the 9/11 trial, even if it would result in the death penalty for himself. He signs it “Slave of ALLAH” and “Enemy Combatant.”

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