France May Seek Custody of Moussaoui

French authorities said Thursday they may consider pressing the United States to have Zacarias Moussaoui serve his life sentence in France.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said France would wait until the sentence is formally pronounced later Thursday to move forward. A jury recommended a life sentence Wednesday for Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, the only person charged in the United States for the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

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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," Mattei said.

He said no decision would be made until U.S. authorities "define the conditions of his sentence."

Justice Minister Pascal Clement echoed that. "In France we have conditions that are specific, and we must know if they are compatible," he said onFrance-2 television.

Moussaoui's mother, Aicha El Wafi, accused the French government of not fighting for her son. She returned to France earlier this week from the United States, where she had been awaiting a verdict, and spoke to reporters Thursday.

Emotional, nervous and dressed in black, 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," she said.

She called her son a scapegoat and the trial a masquerade, and insisted that his guilt was never proven. She said the life sentence 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."

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.

In Europe, Moussaoui's trial was widely considered less about terrorism than about what Europeans consider the perplexing American attachment to the death penalty. Some French and Arab commentators also see Moussaoui as a scapegoat for a U.S. administration eager to produce results in its increasingly discredited anti-terror war.