ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Zacarias Moussaoui, the man charged as an accomplice in the Sept. 11 attacks, asked a judge Friday to allow his trial to be televised to make sure the proceedings are fair.
The government opposed the idea, saying that broadcasting the trial might lead to terrorist retaliation against witnesses.
Moussaoui's request backed a motion by Court TV to televise the trial. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday on whether to depart from rules banning cameras in federal courtrooms.
"Mr. Moussaoui recognizes that the American criminal justice system will be on display for the entire world as the trial of this action proceeds," said one of his attorneys, Edward MacMahon Jr., in a legal memorandum.
"Televising the trial . . . will ensure that the entire world is able to watch the proceedings and will add an additional layer of protection to see that these proceedings are fairly conducted."
Federal prosecutors saw danger in the idea.
A televised trial could assist Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network "in identifying and targeting prosecution witnesses," the administration said in its own court filing.
Moussaoui's written memorandum said he does not support televising pretrial proceedings because potential jurors might be exposed to evidence that could be eliminated from the trial.
Moussaoui's position was contingent on Court TV providing a live transmission to all interested stations or networks, the memo said. Court TV's spokeswoman, Betsy Vorce, said, "It is our hope to provide a live feed."
Jury selection in the case begins Sept. 30; opening arguments are scheduled for about two weeks later. Moussaoui is charged with conspiring with bin Laden, the hijackers and others to commit the Sept. 11 attacks and could be sentenced to die if convicted. Brinkema entered a plea of innocent after Moussaoui said he had no plea.
Despite the federal rules, cameras were in the courtroom for the Oklahoma City bombing trial, which was shown on closed-circuit TV to the victims' families.
The Senate has passed legislation to allow a similar arrangement for the Moussaoui case, but the House has yet to act.
Moussaoui's motion also asked that delayed coverage not be allowed if the jury is allowed to go home each day rather than being sent to a secure location.
"There is a risk that a nonsequestered jury might, despite the order of the court, see testimony that has already been given in court and thus give undo weight to the replayed testimony," the lawyers argued.
Court TV's motion contends the federal ban is unconstitutional and argues, "Through television, the means exist for all Americans to exercise their constitutional right to observe this trial."
Four federal circuit courts have upheld the constitutionality of the federal rule. But those cases were heard between 1983 and 1988, and technology has changed since then to make cameras much less disruptive, Court TV has argued.
Court TV, a division of AOL Time Warner and Liberty Media Corp., has televised more than 700 trials and judicial proceedings since its inception in 1991. Among the most notable televised trials was that of O.J. Simpson.