|PROCLAIMING "I am al-Qaeda", the only man convicted in the US for his involvement in the September 11 terror attacks yesterday repeatedly disrupted the opening of a trial to determine if he will be executed.
Startling potential jurors and forcing the judge to have him removed from the court, Zacarias Moussaoui yelled that he did not want his defence team to represent him, declaring: "This trial is a circus. They do not represent me. They are Americans." He added: "These people are not my lawyer."
Removed three times from the court, he insisted: "I want to be heard. For four years I have waited. I will tell the truth I know. I will take the stand."
Moussaoui pleaded guilty last year to being part of the conspiracy that led to the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. At the time of the attacks, he was in jail on unrelated charges but prosecutors successfully argued that he was part of a conspiracy that led to the deaths of 2,973 people. The US Government wants him to be executed, but Moussaoui has vowed "to fight every inch against the death penalty".
On the first day of jury selection yesterday, the French-born Moussaoui continued the volatile and aggressive behaviour that characterised his trial last year. The Government plans to call relatives of about 40 September 11 victims to describe the impact of their loss. Many other relatives will watch the proceedings from the public gallery or live video feeds.
Leonie Brinkema, the US district judge in charge of the sentencing trial, told the potential jurors that "a death penalty case is an awesome responsibility". She told them to be "forthcoming" if Moussaoui's erratic behaviour affected their ability to judge the case. He faces death by lethal injection if the jury determines that he must die. If not, he will spend life in jail without parole.
At the time of the attacks, Moussaoui was in jail because his visa had expired. It emerged later that instructors at the Pan Am International Flight Academy, in Minnesota, had become suspicious of Moussaoui in August 2001. He admitted that he intended to commandeer an airliner targeting the White House in a second wave of attacks, some time after September 11.