MONTPELLIER, France – The mother of the only person convicted in the United States for participating in the Sept. 11 attacks urged France on Monday to take a firmer stand in opposing the death penalty for her son.
Zacarias Moussaoui (search), a French citizen of Moroccan descent, told a U.S. court Friday that he was chosen by Usama bin Laden (search) to fly an airliner into the White House. He pleaded guilty to six felonies, four of which carry the death penalty, and American prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.
Moussaoui's mother, Aicha el-Wafi (search), told a news conference in the southern city of Montpellier that she "would like France to truly show its position."
"My son is French, born in France. For the moment, there is no reason to condemn him to death," said el-Wafi, accompanied by her French lawyer, Francois Roux.
The European Union (search) condemns the death penalty for foreign nationals in the United States. France, which outlaws the death penalty, has urged that Moussaoui not be executed.
On Monday, the Foreign Ministry repeated its insistence that France cannot interfere with or intervene in a trial and said it was up to Moussaoui or his lawyers to provide for his defense.
Cecile Pozzo di Borgo, a ministry spokeswoman, said Moussaoui at first refused French consular protection shortly after he was arrested but then accepted a meeting with French officials in July 2002. He had not asked for any consular support since, she said.
"In effect, we cannot require him to use lawyer services or prevent him from pleading guilty if he decided to do so," Pozzo di Borgo said. She said French consular officials were attending the proceedings and will continue to follow them "very attentively."
Moussaoui admitted his guilt in an Alexandria, Va., court on six counts of conspiring with Al Qaeda (search) leaders and the Sept. 11 hijackers to wreak havoc on Americans. The Sept. 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people.
He also told the court he intended to fight the death penalty.
Moussaoui, 36, was arrested on immigration charges in August 2001 after drawing attention to himself at a Minnesota flight school because he said he wanted to learn to fly a Boeing 747 although he had no pilot's license. He already was in custody during the Sept. 11 attacks.
His mother argued that her son admitted to a plan that never panned out — "that he had the intention to crash a plane."
"He can't be condemned to death for his intentions," she said.