WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday approved a bill to allow the families of the Sept. 11 victims to watch the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the first man indicted on charges related to the attacks.
The trial would be broadcast on closed-circuit television in the cities most affected by the plane crashes.
The House will consider the bill next year.
It was introduced on Wednesday by Sen. George Allen, R-Va., who modeled the legislation after a measure that allowed the families of the Oklahoma City bombing trial to watch the Timothy McVeigh trial.
“We owe it to those victims’ families to allow them to see these open proceedings which are directly related to the horrific events of September 11 that touched their loved ones,” he said. Some families might not want to watch the trial, “but for those who do, it will help them begin to heal,” Allen added.
Federal courthouses usually ban television cameras, but under Allen’s bill —which passed on a voice vote — the Moussaoui trial would be piped from the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., to secure locations in Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Newark, N.J.
Those are the places where the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania took off or would have landed, Allen said. The judge would have the option of including additional locations for viewing.
The courthouse in Alexandria is simply too small to accommodate the large number of people affected by the terrorism attacks, Allen said.
“If it’s an open trial ... and the courtroom facilities are simply insufficient for the victims to be able to view the trial and the proceedings, then you have to do something like this,” he said Wednesday.
Allen’s bill limits the closed circuit viewing to only the Moussaoui trial, but he said he would support similar legislation for future Sept. 11 trials held in federal courts.