PARIS – Zacarias Moussaoui's mother said Thursday that U.S. officials are "looking for someone's head" in the Sept. 11 attacks, and that she's not surprised the government is seeking the death penalty against her son.
France, meanwhile, expressed its regret over the decision announced Thursday. Like many European countries, it sees the death penalty as a violation of human rights, and it had asked the United States not to seek capital punishment against Moussaoui, a French citizen.
Aicha Moussaoui spoke moments after the U.S. Justice Department told a court it will seek the death penalty against Moussaoui, the only person to be charged in the attacks on New York and Washington.
"I was sure," said Mrs. Moussaoui, who also uses the name Aicha el-Wafi, hearing of the U.S decision.
"They're looking for someone's head," she said. "My son is a scapegoat. They can't find the people who are truly responsible for this crime."
Moussaoui's brother, Abd Samad Moussaoui, denounced "the inequity between the resources of the defense and the prosecution in the United States. I have the impression that we are heading toward vengeance, and not toward a serene justice," he said.
Moussaoui, 33, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, is charged with conspiring with Usama bin Laden, the 19 hijackers and others to commit the Sept. 11 attacks. His trial is to begin Sept. 30. Four of the six counts brought against Moussaoui carry a maximum sentence of death.
His mother maintained her son was innocent. "My son is not an assassin," she said.
She also said she felt her son was being treated unfairly as compared to John Walker Lindh, the 21-year-old American who fought with the Taliban. Lindh, of Fairfax, Calif., faces 10 charges, three of which carry a maximum life sentence.
"Why is my son facing the death penalty when a man who fought with the Taliban is not? It shows that they are using him as a scapegoat."
In Paris, both Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and Justice Minister Marylise Lebranchu expressed their regret over the U.S. decision to seek the death penalty.
"I regret this ... the death penalty," Lebranchu said, while acknowledging that France's influence on the matter was "very limited."
She added that France would continue its judicial cooperation in general with the United States but would not turn over any documents that could contribute to the use of the death penalty against Moussaoui. She said no such document had yet been turned over.
France abolished the death penalty in 1981. It is conducting its own investigation of Moussaoui.
Many groups in France have expressed their outrage over the possible application of the death penalty in Moussaoui's case.
Gilles Sainati of France's Magistrates' Union said Thursday that "it will be more difficult to share information in the international war on terrorism with a country seeking the death penalty against a terror suspect."
The president of the French Human Rights League, Michel Tubiana, said he "cannot see how the French government can agree to cooperate with the U.S. government in this affair."