ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI used what was probably the last public appearance of his life to exchange bitter words with relatives of 9/11 victims and with the judge who sentenced him to spend the rest of his days in solitary confinement in America's most secure prison.
"God curse America," he shouted at the court yesterday. "You will die with a whimper," the judge told him. Looking directly at Moussaoui, one of the three relatives allowed to address the sentencing session declared: "There is still one final judgment day."
The only man convicted for the 9/11 attacks had been spared the death penalty by the jury the previous day, but Judge Leonie Brinkema instead sentenced him to spend the rest of his life in prison with no possibility of release.
Judge Brinkema used the final session of Moussaoui's two-month trial to challenge his claim on Wednesday that the jury's decision to spare his life meant America had "lost" — and he had won.
She said: "Mr Moussaoui, when this proceeding is over, everyone else in this room will leave to see the sun, smell the fresh air, hear the birds and associate with whomever they want. You will spend the rest of your life in a supermax prison. It's absolutely clear who won."
She told him: "You came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory, but to paraphrase the poet T. S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper." Moussaoui tried to interrupt, but she continued: "You will never get a chance to speak again and that's an appropriate ending."
Moussaoui, 37, had entered court in Alexandria, Virginia, flashing a victory sign and shouting: "God save Osama bin Laden — you will never get him." He was then forced to listen to the family members of those who died on 9/11. Rosemary Dillard, who lost her husband in the Pentagon attack, described how she had watched the man who destroyed her life "twiddle his beard and make faces" during the trial. "For you I feel nothing but disgust," she told him. "I hope I never hear your name again."
Moussaoui used his final five-minute address to respond directly to Mrs Dillard. "She said I destroyed a life and she lost a husband. Maybe one day she can think about how many people the CIA have destroyed . . . You have a hypocrisy beyond belief. Your humanity is a selective humanity. Only you suffer."
He added: "You think you rule the world. We will prove you wrong. I have nothing more to say because you don't want to hear the truth. You missed an opportunity here to find out why people like me and people like Mohammed Atta [who led the 9/11 attacks] have so much hatred. So we will come back again. If you do not hear it, you will feel it."
Abraham Scott, another bereaved relative who addressed the court, later said that those remarks had been "like a dagger in my heart", adding that it had been hard to resist "jumping over and doing some bodily harm to him".
Moussaoui's mother, Aicha El-Wafi, urged authorities in his native France to intervene so that he does not have to be confined like a "rat in a hole".
The jury's verdict against the death penalty — when three of the twelve cited as a mitigating factor the "minor role" that they thought he had had in the 9/11 plot — is a blow to President Bush. The Government has faced great pressure to hold someone to account for the attacks and has been criticised for not putting on trial other, more senior figures in al-Qaeda who are being held at secret locations outside the US.
In his response Mr Bush noted that the jury had spared Moussaoui's life, "which is something that he evidently wasn't willing to do for innocent American citizens".
Moussaoui yesterday repeated his prediction, based apparently on a dream, that he will be pardoned and allowed to fly to London — where he once lived — on a 747 jet. "I'll be free," he shouted before being led away. A relative of one of the 3,000 people killed on 9/11, shot back: "In your dreams."
"God curse America"
The last public words of Zacarias Moussaoui
"Mr Moussaoui, when this proceeding is over, everyone else in this room will leave to see the sun, smell the fresh air, hear the birds and associate with whomever they want. You will spend the rest of your life in a supermax prison. It's absolutely clear who won
"You came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory, but to paraphrase the poet T. S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper
"You will never get a chance to speak again and that's an appropriate ending"
Judge Leonie Brinkema