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TERRORISM

French prosecutors seek life in jail for brother of jihadist who killed Jewish children

Prosecutors in the trial of the brother of the Islamist radical who shot dead seven people including three Jewish children in southwest France in 2012 called Monday for him to be jailed for life.

French prosecutors seek life in jail for brother of jihadist who killed Jewish children
The Paris courthouse before the opening of the trial of Abdelkader Merah. Photo: AFP
Abdelkader Merah, 35, should be ineligible for parole for 22 years, prosecutor Naima Rudloff told the court as the trial that began on October 2 reached its final phase.
   
He was accused of knowingly facilitating his brother Mohamed Merah's attackon a Jewish school in Toulouse in which a rabbi, two of the rabbi's children aged three and five and an eight-year-old girl were killed.
   
The attack, which Merah carried out in the name of Al-Qaeda, was the deadliest on Jews in France in three decades and the first of a wave of violence by homegrown jihadists that has killed more than 200 people.
 
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Brother of French jihadist fights radicalisationAbdelghani Merah, who is trying to make sure no one becomes like his brother Mohamed. Photo: AFP

Over the course of his nine-day killing spree, Merah also shot dead three soldiers based in the nearby garrison town of Montauban before police killed him after a 32-hour siege of his home.  

Abdelkader was charged with helping Mohamed, 23 at the time, to steal the motor scooter and jacket he used during the killing spree.
   
Abdelkader was also accused of belonging to an offshoot of Al-Qaeda and following the group's “teachings and operational advice”.
   
Investigators believe Abdelkader had considerable influence over his brother.
 
Defending him in 2012, the elder Merah had said: “Every Muslim would like to give his life to kill his enemy.”
   
Prosecutors say the pair were repeatedly in contact in the days before the shootings.
   
Rudloff said a second defendant, Fettah Malki, also charged with complicity, should get 20 years behind bars.
   
The 34-year-old was accused of supplying Mohamed Merah with a machine pistol, ammunition and a bullet-proof vest.
   
Neither man denies helping the gunman obtain materials but claim they were unaware of his intentions.
   
A verdict is expected Thursday.

TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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