French concern over Moussaoui case
By CNN's Jim Bittermann
PARIS, France (CNN) -- The French justice minister plans to raise her country's objections to the death penalty in the case of a French citizen who is facing a possible death sentence in the U.S. for his alleged role in September 11.
However, aides to Justice Minister Marylise Lebranchu concede that because Zacarias Moussaoui is already in a United States jail, there is little the French government can do about his fate, other than raise their objections with U.S. officials and ensure he has access to an adequate defence.
A hearing has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon in New York for Moussaoui, the first person charged for his direct role in the September 11 terror attacks.
Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, has been charged with conspiring with Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist network to "murder thousands of people" in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Tuesday.
The multiple conspiracy charges against Moussaoui, 33, allege that he engaged in the "same preparation for murder" as the 19 hijackers who commandeered four U.S. jets and crashed them. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
U.S. officials have said that so far Moussaoui has not availed himself of assistance from the French consul in New York in arranging his defense. That assistance is typically provided by most nations, including the United States, when their citizens are arrested in another country.
The French government finds itself involved in both sides of the Moussaoui case. While France refuses to extradite anyone to a country with the death penalty, it is a member of the anti-terrorist alliance.
U.S. officials have said that much of the information that led to Moussaoui's arrest was provided by French intelligence officials.
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