PARIS – Zacarias Moussaoui's mother on Thursday blamed France for not fighting harder for her son's case, and said his race and his color were partly to blame for the U.S. jury's decision to sentence him to life in prison over the Sept. 11 attacks.
"My son will be buried alive because France didn't dare contradict the Americans," Aicha El Wafi told reporters in Paris, where she had returned recently after a trip to the United States.
"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."
"I would have liked for France to say that he should be judged for what he did and not for what he said," she said.
Immediately following Wednesday's verdict, El Wafi said on French radio that she felt "dead" and that he was convicted of crimes he didn't commit. She called it "the worst thing that could happen to a mother."
El Wafi's lawyer, Patrick Baudouin, expressed delight that the jury did not decide on the death penalty for Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent and the only person charged in the United States over the Sept. 11 attacks.
Baudouin vowed a legal battle to bring Moussaoui home.
"We will pursue unrelentlessly a request to French authorities that they demand a return of Zacarias Moussaoui to France," he said. "So the fight isn't over -- far from it -- it is only beginning."
"I am delighted that the American jury did not hand down the death penalty despite the pressure of public opinion, the aggression of prosecutors and the legitimate emotion of the victims," he said.
While a death penalty "would have only added barbarity upon barbarity," Baudouin said, "I can't be happy with the sentence handed down -- life in prison is extremely severe and disproportionate to the acts that can really be attributed to Zacarias Moussaoui."
French Justice Minister Pascal Clement, in a statement prepared before the verdict for release after it was read, said he would consult the foreign minister on the possible steps to take now.
The French Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on El Wafi's comments.
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 the death penalty.