Sat, May 06, 2006 - Page 7 News List

`Alcatraz of the Rockies' to house Moussaoui


A courtroom drawing shows Zacarias Moussaoui shouting ``I will be free. Before the end of George Bush I will get out,'' as he is led out of the courtroom by a marshal at the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday.


Zacarias Moussaoui will spend the rest of his life with no one to talk to in a cell with a tiny window inside the "Alcatraz of the Rockies."

Moussaoui was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison after scolding Americans for missing a chance to learn from him why they are hated by al-Qaeda terrorists. US District Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced the unrepentant 37-year-old Frenchman to six life sentences and told him he would "die with a whimper," isolated from the world and not in the glory of martyrdom.

His next stop is expected to be the federal maximum-security prison in Florence, a small town 145km southwest of Denver.

At Supermax, he would spend 23 hours a day in his cell and have little to no contact with other notorious criminals, including Ramzi Yousef, Eric Rudolph, Ted Kaczynski and Terry Nichols on "bombers' row." Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber Moussaoui said was to help him fly a fifth plane into the White House, is also serving a life sentence there.

At the sentencing hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, the judge told Moussaoui that everyone else in the room would be "free to go any place they want. They can go outside and they can feel the sun, ... smell the fresh air, ... hear the birds. They can eat what they want tonight. They can associate with whom they want."

She went on: "You will never again get a chance to speak and that's an appropriate and fair ending."

Robert Hood, a former warden at Supermax, said the judge's description was accurate. Even when Moussaoui is allowed outside he would "see the sky but not the mountains or other terrain," he said.

Moussaoui would be afforded religious rights as a Muslim and probably a special diet if he behaves. Inmates at Supermax also are allowed telephone calls and visitors if they don't act up. Hood said phone privileges could be as little as 15 minutes a month.

Prison officials declined to comment on Thursday after Moussaoui was formally sentenced. Carla Wilson, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, would not confirm that Moussaoui will be a Supermax inmate.

Still, she noted the prison is designed for people like him.

"It operates under a special mission and that mission is to handle the most violent and disruptive inmates," she said.

The US$60 million Supermax, formally called Administrative Maximum, was built in 1995 in Florence, a town of 3,600 people. It was designed for inmates once held at the US Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, which had replaced the famous Alcatraz prison in California when it closed in 1963.

The soundproofed cells were designed so inmates cannot make eye contact with each other. Each cell has a long, narrow window looking out at other prison walls or the small concrete recreation yard.

Concrete platforms topped with mattresses function as beds. Each cell also contains a concrete stool, shower and toilet.

Hood said inmates see no current news on the small black-and-white television, and some of the programming is official prison material. "If a newspaper is allowed it will be time-delayed," the former warden said.

Inmates get one hour out of their cells each day to eat or play basketball or handball. They can take academic courses via closed-circuit TV in each cell.

On Thursday, Moussaoui directed what may be his last public words to three relatives of victims killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Moments before, the relatives described loved ones lost the day four hijacked jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

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