PARIS – Zacarias Moussaoui's mother said Thursday a life sentence for her son was more cruel than putting him to death because now he will "live like a rat in a hole."
Aicha El Wafi, who returned to France earlier this week, said the trial was a masquerade that did not prove her son's guilt, and she accused the French government of not fighting hard enough for him, saying it did not want to oppose the United States.
El Wafi, dressed in black, was emotional and nervous as she spoke with reporters a day after the jury in Alexandria, Va., decided to send him to prison for life without a chance of parole, and she repeated over and over, "This is terrible."
"I share the suffering and the pain of the parents of the victims. I'm with them," she said.
"I feel like a part of myself is dead, buried with my son, who is going to be buried all of his life at 37 years old for things that he didn't do. Because he spoke too much," El Wafi said.
She called her son a scapegoat, adding that the life sentence imposed for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was worse than the death penalty.
"Now he is going to die in little doses," she said. "He is going to live like a rat in a hole. What for? They are so cruel, they were wrong to want his head. They should have gone all the way to the end if they were capable."
"My son will be buried alive because France didn't dare contradict the Americans," El Wafi said.
"I don't share the ideas and the words of my son in the court," she said, but added that it was "because of his words, his color, his race, that he was sentenced to life."
El Wafi's lawyer, Patrick Baudouin, expressed relief that the jury did not decide on the death penalty, and vowed a legal battle to bring Moussaoui home.
"They wanted to make the little soldier Moussaoui into a perpetrator of the Sept. 11 attacks," Baudouin said. "He had no blood on his hands."
French authorities said they may ask the United States to let Moussaoui serve his life sentence in a France prison.
France and the United States are linked by two conventions on transferring convicts, and "an eventual request for transferring Mr. Zacarias Moussaoui would be studied in this framework," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said.
Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, was the only person charged in the United States in those attacks. A jury decided not to impose the death penalty.
After the sentencing, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said: "I asked my services and our embassy in Washington, who offered their consular protection and who followed day to day the unfolding of the process, to continue to remain very attentive to the situation of Zacarias Moussaoui."
He did not comment on the verdict itself, but said: "The French authorities have had the occasion, several times, to restate their constant opposition to capital punishment."
A ministry spokesman said no decision on transferring Moussaoui would be made until U.S. authorities "define the conditions of his sentence."
France, which abolished capital punishment in 1981, had demanded that none of the information it provided for the U.S. case against Moussaoui be used to seek execution.