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Family of 9/11 victims testify for Moussaoui defense

By Staff
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ALEXANDRIA, Va, Apr 20 (Reuters) Noble and generous, family members of September. 11 victims overcame anger, rage and a thirst for vengeance before testifying for the defence in a trial that will determine if Zacarias Moussaoui will be executed.

Moussaoui, an admitted al Qaeda member, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the airliner hijackings. The 12-person jury is hearing evidence before deciding whether he should be sentenced to death or get life in prison.

More than 40 witnesses have already testified about their loved ones killed on September. 11 when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

But they were called to the stand by federal prosecutors who are trying to convince the jury that Moussaoui deserves death. Some were survivors who gave graphic descriptions of their struggle to escape the burning towers, while others were family members who spoke of the impact loved ones' violent deaths have had on their lives.

The latest group of family members, however, were testifying as part of the evidence being presented by the defence, which is trying to convince the jury to spare Moussaoui's life.

None of the witnesses yesterday said anything to the jury about how they thought Moussaoui should be sentenced.

But one of the witnesses, Marilynn Rosenthal, whose son Josh was killed, told reporters outside the courthouse that said she decided to testify for the defence because she felt it was her ''patriotic duty''.

''I don't know I did it for (Josh), I did it because I thought it was my duty, as an American in a democracy,'' she said after testifying. ''Mr Moussaoui is the wrong man to be ... on trial.'' WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY Rosenthal, a medical sociologist, earlier told the jury she decided to learn as much as she could about al Qaeda and the hijacking plot to better understand what happened that day.

''Everybody ... wants something good and positive to come out of what happened,'' she said. ''For me that meant finding out everything. I've spent the last four years doing research for a book that represents my understanding.'' Several witnesses spoke of how they had worked to overcome anger, rage and desire for vengeance since September. 11.

Donald Bane, an Episcopal priest whose son Michael had worked on the 100th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center, said he searched for ways to handle his feelings.

''I tried to think of ways I could learn more and understand more. I thought what was needed were bridges of understanding with the people who could do this kind of thing,'' he said, explaining that he helped set up one of a series of meetings between Christians and Muslims.

Anthony Aversano, who reconciled a long dispute with his father two years to the day his father was killed in one of the towers, said he learned he had to also deal with his anger over September.

11.

''I saw if I went down the path of wanting retaliation ... I would giving my life over to them,'' he said, his voice breaking on the witness stand. ''If I was to succumb to fear, to succumb to the terror ... I give up my life. I can't possibly have an open heart and still be afraid or angry or vengeful.'' Several more family members of victims are due to testify today.

The case could go to the jury as early as Monday.

REUTERS PG PM0525

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