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Court TV is asking a federal judge for permission to broadcast the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the first person indicted in the Sept. 11 attacks. Although many state courts allow trials to be broadcast, federal rules explicitly prohibit TV cameras in courtrooms. But lawyers for Court TV say that prohibition is unconstitutional. “Through television, the means exist for all Americans to exercise their constitutional right to observe this trial,” wrote Court TV attorney Lee Levine, in a motion filed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va. The cable network also wants to broadcast pretrial proceedings. Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment, as did the federal public defender’s office in Alexandria, which is representing Moussaoui. A hearing on Court TV’s request is scheduled for Jan. 11. Moussaoui is set for arraignment Jan. 2. He is charged with conspiring with Osama bin Laden and others to commit the Sept. 11 attacks and could get the death penalty if convicted. Congressional legislation allowed families of the Oklahoma City bombing victims to watch Timothy McVeigh’s trial on a closed-circuit broadcast. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., has introduced similar legislation for the Moussaoui trial and the families of the Sept. 11 victims. The bill has passed the Senate and will be heard in the House next month. Allen spokeswoman Carrie Cantrell said the senator supports a televised broadcast of the Moussaoui trial but limited his legislation to closed-circuit coverage because it seemed more likely to win passage. Four federal circuit courts have upheld the constitutionality of the federal rule barring the broadcast of criminal trials. But those cases were heard between 1983 and 1988, and technology has changed since then to make cameras much less disruptive, Court TV argued. “Today, Court TV and other electronic media routinely record trial court proceedings without disturbing in the slightest the serenity of those proceedings, via the use of a silent camera, inconspicuously placed away from the participants,” the network said in court papers. Court TV, a division of AOL Time Warner, has televised more than 700 trials and judicial proceedings since its inception in 1991, most notably the O.J. Simpson trial. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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