Moussaoui lacked 'support', cult expert says

Associated Press/April 19, 2006

Alexandria, VA. — Zacarias Moussaoui's isolation from family members and social support networks left the conspirator in the terrorist attacks on America vulnerable to recruitment by the Al Qaeda network, an expert on cults testified Wednesday.

Psychologist Paul Martin, called by lawyers trying to save Moussaoui from the death penalty, said that French Moroccans like Moussaoui generally feel alienated from western society and that his state of mind suffered even more when he left France in 1992 to study international business in London.

"He's away from his family. He's lonely. He's complained about racism. He's in a new country, and he doesn't have any support group," Martin said, describing the period in the mid-1990s that Moussaoui began his move to radical Islam.

Martin's testimony was allowed by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, but at the insistence of prosecutors, the judge barred any suggestion from Martin or others that Moussaoui had been brainwashed by Al Qaeda.

The testimony from Martin, who runs a treatment centre for cult victims in Albany, Ohio, came a day after testimony from a psychiatrist who described Moussaoui as a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions that he would one day be freed from prison by President George W. Bush.

Moussaoui's defence team contends that his belief about Bush was a prime example that he had lost touch with reality. They hope evidence that Moussaoui suffers from mental illness will persuade a jury to show mercy and spare his life.

Moussaoui is the only person charged in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The jury deciding his fate has already declared him eligible for the death penalty by determining that his actions caused at least one death on 9/11.

Even though Moussaoui was in jail in Minnesota at the time of the attacks, the jury ruled that lies he told federal agents a month before the attacks kept authorities from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers.

They now must decide whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison.

Moussaoui has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Al Qaeda to fly planes into U.S. buildings, but not on Sept. 11.

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