By Timothy Dwyer and Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Zacarias Moussaoui stroked his beard. He scratched his chin. Finally, he asked the question that everyone in the federal courtroom yesterday had waited much of the day to hear.
"You said you met someone by the name of John, correct?" Moussaoui asked the witness.
"Yes," said Faiz Bafana.
"Can you identify this person?" Moussaoui asked.
"He looks exactly like you," Bafana replied.
The Alexandria jury that will decide whether Moussaoui will live or die for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks got a taste -- via videotape -- of what the penalty trial might have been like if he had been allowed to act as his own attorney.
For most of the second full day of testimony, the jury at U.S. District Court in Alexandria watched a November 2002 videotaped deposition of Moussaoui cross-examining Bafana, a member of a southeast Asian terrorist group with ties to al-Qaeda. Moussaoui watched from the courtroom, along with everyone else.
In opening statements Monday, prosecutors portrayed Moussaoui as a hardened terrorist, saying he should die because he lied to investigators when he was arrested a month before Sept. 11. If he had revealed all he knew about the plot, prosecutors contended, the attacks could have been prevented, and nearly 3,000 lives could have been spared.
But defense attorneys painted Moussaoui as bumbling and unstable, saying he had no specific knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot. Homing in on the government's failure to prevent the attacks, they said that investigators ignored warning signs and likewise would have failed to act on Moussaoui's information.
Moussaoui, 37, pleaded guilty in April to conspiring with al-Qaeda in the Sept. 11 plot, but he has insisted that Osama bin Laden had instructed him to fly an airplane into the White House at another time. When he pleaded guilty, he signed a document saying that bin Laden had told him, "Sahrawi, remember your dream."
Bafana testified on the videotape that he had met a man, identified only as John, who visited him in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in mid-2000. Bafana said that John told him of his dream to fly a plane into the White House and that this dream had been blessed by bin Laden.
While being questioned by prosecutors for a couple of hours on the videotape, Bafana was never asked about John's real identity. It took Moussaoui, asking questions on his own behalf, to link himself to John. Bafana said John did not feel comfortable talking in his home because he thought it might be bugged. He said they left his home and talked on a park bench.
Although Moussaoui never attended law school, he demonstrated in the videotape that he knew how to object, which he did repeatedly, often on the grounds that the question being asked lacked the proper foundation.
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema granted Moussaoui the right to represent himself but later took it away and restored his standby defense attorneys. Sometimes she sustained his objections on the videotape, but she also scolded him for asking the same question over and over again.
"You're wasting your time," Brinkema told him on the videotape.
"I am not wasting my time," Moussaoui snapped back, which prompted smiles from several jurors watching the tape.
Bafana said he was certain Moussaoui and John were the same person.
"Are you sure?" Moussaoui asked.
"Very sure," Bafana answered.
"Was the person you mean very heavy in weight?" Moussaoui pressed.
"I am sure it is you," the witness replied.
Bafana said he was treasurer of a chapter of Jemaah Islamiya in Singapore. He said he helped raise money for terrorist attacks -- including one on a train station in Manila in December 2000 that killed 22 people -- and served as a host for visitors, such as John, when they stopped in Malaysia.
Bafana testified that a couple of weeks after they first met, John called him and asked for $10,000 because he wanted to "contact some brothers in Europe" and wanted to attend flight school. Bafana said Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, who is known as Hambali and who was Jemaah Islamiya's chief strategist until his capture in Thailand in 2003, told him to give John 2,000 Singapore dollars -- about $1,200 U.S. -- instead.
Bafana also said that Moussaoui talked about jihad, or holy war, during the 2000 conversation in Malaysia and said it was important to "bring down America."