The reaction was a clear warning to the United States that requests for extradition of terror suspects related to Sept. 11 will be met with stiff resistance if they could face the death penalty.
Early all European governments have abolished the death penalty and they all say suspects who face it will not be extradited. That puts the United States in a special category and makes it difficult for European governments to cooperate with American law enforcement authorities.
Even America's closest ally in the war on terrorism, Great Britain, would attach strings before extraditing Osama bin Laden to the United States if he were captured by British troops.
French lawyer Michel Tubiana has long denounced the death penalty in the United States. "We are against the death penalty in any case, in any case," says Tubiana, chairman of the French Human Rights League.
In the case of Sept 11th, the French have a particular axe to grind.
The United Sates believes French citizen Zacarias Moussaoui would have been the 20th hijacker in the attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, if he had not been arrested for suspicious behavior.
On Jan. 2, a judge entered a plea of not guilty to conspiracy charges. Four of the six counts against him could lead to the death penalty.
Attorney General John Ashcroft got an earful about the whole issue when he recently toured Europe last month.
"Most of the states in the U.S. and the federal government have laws the violation of which provides death eligibility," said Ashcroft.
But he did also say that each case had to be dealt with individually, perhaps an indication that, for the United States, it may be more important to get the terrorists into American jails even if it means they won't end up in American death chambers.
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