Bush tries to spin Moussaoui verdict

President Bush said Wednesday a federal jury that spared the life of al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui did “something that he evidently wasn’t willing to do for innocent American citizens.”

Bush declined to say whether he was satisfied with the jury’s decision to reject the death penalty in favor of a sentence of life imprisonment. The government had sought the death penalty.

The president commented on the case during a brief question and answer session in the Oval Office. He also issued a written statement in which he said the verdict “represents the end of this case but not an end to the fight against terror.”

Moussaoui was the only person charged in this country in the four suicide jetliner hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. Three jurors decided Moussaoui had only limited knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot and three described his role in the attacks as minor, if he had any role at all.

Without commenting directly on the jury’s decision, Bush declared in the statement, “Evil will not have the final say. This great nation will prevail.”

Bush was asked about the verdict after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Mr. Moussaoui got a fair trial,” Bush said. “The jury convicted him to life in prison, where he will spend the rest of his life. In so doing, they spared his life, which is something that he evidently wasn’t willing to do for innocent American citizens.”

“As I think about the trial, I can’t help but think about the families who lost a loved one on September the 11th,” Bush said. “I think about the rescuers who tried to save lives in the burning buildings.”

“And I know that it’s really important for the United States to stay on the offense against these killers and bring them to justice,” he said. “And those are my thoughts about the Moussaoui trial.”

In his written statement, Bush said that “our thoughts today are with the families who lost loved ones.”

Bush said the nation continues to grieve for the victims of Sept. 11.

“We are still deeply touched by the memory of rescuers who gave all, the passengers who ran a hijacked plane into the ground to prevent an even greater loss of life and the frightened souls who comforted one another during their final moments on earth.”

Bush said, “The end of this trial represents the end of this case but not an end to the fight against terror.”

“The enemy that struck our shores on September 11th is still active and remains determined to kill Americans,” the president said. “We will stay on the offensive against the terrorists. We will end their ability to plot and plan. We will deny them safe haven and the ability to gain weapons of mass murder.”

“In these four and a half years, with good allies at our side, the United States has killed or captured many terrorists, shut down training camps, broken up terror cells in our own country, and removed regimes that sponsored terror,” the president said. “We have many dedicated men and women fully engaged in this fight in the military, intelligence and homeland security; law enforcement personnel; and federal investigators and prosecutors who gather the evidence, make the case and ensure that justice is done. They are doing superb work every day to remove this danger and to protect our country.”

“We have had many victories, yet there is much left to do, and I will not relent in this struggle for the freedom and security of the American people,” Bush said. “And we can be confident. Our cause is right, and the outcome is certain: Justice will be served. Evil will not have the final say. This great nation will prevail.”

© 2006 The Associated Press