Moussaoui's Mother Blames Outcome on French Passivity

By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, May 5, 2006

PARIS, May 4 -- The mother of convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui said Thursday her son had nothing to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and did not deserve the life sentence a jury in Virginia gave him Wednesday. She accused the French government of aiding in his conviction to appease the United States.

"My son is going to be buried alive because France didn't dare to irritate the Americans," Aicha el-Wafi said at a news conference in her attorney's office in Paris.

"I wish France had said that this French citizen should have been judged on what he did and not on what he said, not because he is Arabic," she said. Instead, France "preferred to give an Arab to please them, for them to have a trial for 9/11, even though my son doesn't have anything to do with 9/11."

At times morose and composed, at others angry and combative, Wafi said that some of the victims' families had been in contact with her and were helping fight her son's conviction "because they think he is a fake culprit, in a fake trial, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed should be there, not Zacarias."

Mohammed, widely viewed as the central organizer of the Sept. 11 attacks, is being held at an undisclosed location by U.S. intelligence operatives.

"You know very well that I don't share my son's ideas, nor the words he used in court in Alexandria," Wafi said. "I regret them a lot. It's because of his words, his ideas, his color, his race, that he is sentenced to life imprisonment.

"A part of myself is dead. Buried with my son, who is going to remain locked up for the rest of his life, for things he didn't do, for talking too much," she said. "He's going to spend his life in a hole like a rat. It's even worse than dying."

Wafi's attorney, Patrick Baudoin, said he was relieved that Moussaoui had not received the death penalty, "despite the pressure from public opinion . . . despite the legitimate pain of the victims' families and despite Zacarias Moussaoui's behavior, which was unacceptable toward the victims."

But Moussaoui, he said, was a "scapegoat."

"The trial showed that FBI agents had much more information on the preparation of the 9/11 attacks than Moussaoui himself," he said. "Therefore, shall we sue these FBI agents for being accomplices to the 9/11 attacks?"

Baudoin, who accused French authorities of showing "only passivity and a lack of interest" in the case, said he would push for France to seek the return of Moussaoui so that he can serve out his sentence in a French prison.

But, he conceded, "I cannot picture the Bush administration, which wanted Zacarias Moussaoui dead, giving him back to France."

In a statement posted on its Web site, the French Embassy in Washington said its consul general had attended every session of Moussaoui's trial, which it said was "conducted in an exemplary fashion."

The statement said that French officials were willing to meet with Moussaoui "as part of the exercise of his consular protection" but that he had never requested a meeting. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said France might eventually ask the United States for Moussaoui's return under long-standing agreements between the two countries governing prisoner transfers.

Researcher Corinne Gavard contributed to this report.

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