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Fourth Circuit hears arguments in Moussaoui appeal

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Monday heard oral arguments by lawyers for Zacarias Moussaoui [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], requesting Moussaoui's guilty plea and life sentence [JURIST reports] be withdrawn and a new trial be granted. The lawyers argued that Moussaoui's Fifth and Sixth Amendment [text] rights were violated, making his guilty plea involuntary. Moussaoui's lawyers also argued that the plea itself was obtained in violation of Rule 11 [text] of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure because Moussaoui was unaware of the charges being brought against him. In addition, Moussaoui's previous counsel did not have access to statements made by al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] members denying Moussaoui's involvement in the 9/11 conspiracy [JURIST news archive]. Finally, Moussaoui's lawyers argued that he was denied the right of counsel by being forced to use the court-appointed attorney. The government lawyer argued that Moussaoui's rights were not violated and that the guilty plea and life sentence should be upheld.

Moussaoui's lawyers initiated this appeal [JURIST report] in January 2008. Moussaoui pleaded guilty in April 2005 to six conspiracy charges [indictment] in connection with the 9/11 attacks, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, conspiracy to destroy aircraft and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. He received a life sentence in 2006 after one juror refused to agree to the death penalty [JURIST report]. He is currently serving his life sentence in the federal Supermax prison in Colorado.

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