Mother of man accused of terrorist act says he has told her he is innocent

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged with direct involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, said Friday he has told her he has proof of his innocence. <br><br>``I couldn&#39;t

Friday, December 28th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged with direct involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, said Friday he has told her he has proof of his innocence.

``I couldn't tell you'' whether he is guilty, Aicha el-Wafi said of her son. ``I don't know what's in the file or in this case. My son tells me he is not guilty. He has told me he has proof that he did nothing and that at the appropriate time he will show that proof,'' she said on CBS' ``The Early Show.''

El-Wafi came to the Washington area Thursday night to plead for her 33-year-old son and to attend his Jan. 2 arraignment in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

Moussaoui has been indicted on six conspiracy charges, four of which could bring the death penalty, in the attacks that killed about 3,000 people in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. He was in jail on other charges at the time of the attacks.

El-Wafi said she has not seen her son since 1997. She said she had never known him to be involved with Islamic radicals or to express hatred for the United States. ``When he was young he only watched American films. He never spoke of such things,'' she said on NBC's ``Today.''

After his arrest, she said through an interpreter on ABC's ``Good Morning America,'' her son wrote her: ``Don't worry about what they are saying on television or in the papers. It's not true.''

Her lawyer, Francois Roux, told reporters at Dulles International Airport Thursday night: ``We are here to try to have a meeting with Mr. Moussaoui and to work with Moussaoui's lawyer to prepare his defense. The mother of Zacarias hopes she can meet her son as soon as possible.''

Asked whether his client was innocent, Roux replied, ``We don't say he's innocent. ... He has a right to have a trial.'' If convicted, Roux added, ``We don't want the death penalty.''

During the news conference, in which el-Wafi spoke in French, she said she was concerned that her son doesn't speak any English and cannot understand the charges against him, and she questioned whether he could get a fair trial in the United States. While she spoke, her voice broke with emotion as she wiped tears from her eyes with a white-and-green handkerchief.

Moussaoui is a Frenchman of Moroccan descent.

He is charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, aircraft piracy, destruction of aircraft, use of weapons of mass destruction, murder of U.S. employees and destruction of U.S. property.

Foreign Ministry officials in Paris have assured el-Wafi and Roux that French diplomats in Washington would be available to help her.

Bernard Valero, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Thursday that to his knowledge Moussaoui had still refused French consular protection. Moussaoui is entitled to change his mind at any time, Valero said.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema set a March 29 deadline for the government to decide whether to pursue the death penalty.

Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said Friday no decision has been made on whether to seek the death penalty and that Moussaoui's case will go through the same review process used in all potential capital cases.

Brinkema scheduled a Jan. 9 hearing on a motion by Court TV seeking to broadcast Moussaoui's trial. Court TV contends federal rules prohibiting cameras in courtrooms are unconstitutional.

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