December 27, 2001

Mother Says Moussaoui Innocent of Sept. 11 Attacks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the first person indicted in the Sept. 11 attacks on America which killed nearly 3,300 people, insisted on Thursday that her son was innocent and appealed for him not to be made into a scapegoat.

U.S. officials have said Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, may have been preparing to join the hijacking teams behind the attacks.

The plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania had only four hijackers while the three other planes that demolished New York's World Trade Center and slammed into the Pentagon each had five hijackers on board.

``He wrote to me in October, and in that letter he told me 'Mum, I haven't done anything, I have proof I've done nothing. You'll see, Mum, I'll show you I haven't,''' Aicha el-Wafi told Reuters in a telephone interview.

El-Wafi arrived in the United States ahead of a Jan. 2 arraignment hearing where her 33-year-old son is expected to enter a formal plea to conspiracy charges that carry a possible death penalty.

``After that letter he sent, it's obvious that he'll say he's not guilty because he told me he wasn't guilty. I believe him because even when he was little he didn't lie to me,'' she said from her hotel in Alexandria, Virginia.

His mother said the U.S. government should try Moussaoui on the evidence and not make him into a scapegoat to assuage public anger about the attacks.

``I share the sense of loss and unhappiness Americans have felt since Sept. 11. But people should not try my son just to make an example of him,'' Moussaoui's mother said.

The United States has blamed Osama bin Laden for the Sept. 11 hijacks and launched a military operation which ousted the Taliban movement for sheltering the Saudi-born militant. But bin Laden himself remains elusive, appearing only in a succession of video tapes.


She said she wanted to see her son and also hoped to meet with his American lawyers to help prepare his defense.

``All I ask is to see him, not for political or religious reasons but as his mother ... I love him,'' she said.

Moussaoui initially was arrested on immigration violations after he aroused suspicion trying to buy time on a jumbo jet simulator at a flight school. He was detained in Minnesota on Aug. 16 but after the Sept. 11 attacks, authorities sent him to New York for questioning as a material witness.

On Dec. 11, the United States indicted Moussaoui on six counts -- conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, commit aircraft piracy, destroy aircraft, use weapons of mass destruction, murder U.S. employees and destroy property.

El-Wafi said her son spoke limited English but had not mastered the language and would need a French translator during his court hearings.

``His case should be translated into French, he was born in France, and he has the right to understand the accusations and what he's being reproached for. You can't accept or deny the accusations if you don't know what they are,'' she said.

Before the indictment, Moussaoui said he was innocent, a position repeated by his lawyer Donald DuBoulay days later.

El-Wafi and her lawyer Francois Roux were waiting to hear whether their request to see Moussaoui would be granted by U.S. authorities. They said they had asked French diplomats for help in arranging a meeting.

Copyright 2001. Reuters. All rights reserved.

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