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Moussaoui Mother Insists Her Son is Innocent - 2002-07-20

The mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, a man accused of terrorism charges that could lead to his execution, insists her son is innocent. Aicha El Ouafi, spoke to the press in Paris Friday.

Aicha El Ouafi has seen her son only once in the past five years at an American prison in June, where Zacarias Moussaoui is being held on conspiracy charges related to the September 11 attacks in Washington and New York. Nonetheless, Mrs. Ouafi said her son pledged to her he is innocent and she believes him.

On Thursday, Mr. Moussaoui tried to plead guilty, saying it might save his life. But a federal judge in Virginia did not accept the plea and gave him a week to reconsider his decision. Mr. Moussaoui, who was born in France and holds French citizenship, told the court he was a member of the al-Qaida terrorist network and a follower of Osama bin Laden. He said he had knowledge about the September 11 attack.

But his mother, who lives in France, suggested months of confinement and his troubled past had pushed Mr. Moussaoui into making rash and unbalanced statements.

Mrs. El Ouafi said her son is not "normal" at the moment. For years, she said, he had been seeking a father figure. But Osama bin Laden, she said, did not fit the bill.

Mrs. El Ouafi said she would try to go to the United States later this month for Mr. Moussaoui's hearing. She said she hopes to get him a lawyer.

Mrs. El Ouafi said she would try to persuade her son not to defend himself. Otherwise, she said, he is likely to condemn himself.

She also criticized the French government for being unhelpful. She said the U.S. government had been given a free reign in the Moussaoui trial to do what it wanted with her son. The French government has offered assistance to Mr. Moussaoui as a French citizen, but Mr. Moussaoui has apparently rejected such help.