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TERRORISM

France expels ‘mentor’ of 2015 jihadist attackers to Algeria

France has stripped a radical Islamic preacher of his French nationality and expelled him to Algeria after his release from prison, where he became a mentor to at least two jihadis who carried out deadly attacks in 2015.

France expels 'mentor' of 2015 jihadist attackers to Algeria
Illustreation photo: AFP

Djamel Beghal was given a 10-year jail term in 2005 after being sent to France following his arrest in the United Arab Emirates shortly after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the US.

He was suspected of leading a network charged by Osama bin Laden to attack American interests in France and is considered by French officials to have been a mentor for several generations of aspiring jihadists.

His activities have also highlighted the struggle by French authorities to prevent Islamic radicalisation in prisons, which have proved fertile recruiting grounds for jihadist fighters.

Beghal, now 52 and stripped of his French nationality, was freed from the Vezin-le-Coquet prison near the western city of Rennes early Monday.

He was brought to Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris for a flight to Algiers, a source close to the case told AFP.

Beghal had been under surveillance for suspected radicalism by French intelligence agents since the mid-1990s, following his arrival in the country from his native Algeria when he was 21 years old. 

While serving his first prison sentence Beghal met Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers who massacred 12 people in an attack on the Charlie Hebdo 
magazine in January 2015.

Amedy Coulibaly, the man who killed a policewoman and then four shoppers at a Jewish supermarket just outside Paris that same month, also came under Beghal's influence at the Fleury-Merogis prison south of Paris, where he also met Kouachi.

After their release, both Kouachi and Coulibaly visited Beghal while he was serving out his sentence under house arrest.

Beghal was arrested again in 2010 as part of a plot to free him as well as Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, an Algerian who helped carry out Paris bomb attacks in 1995 which killed eight people.

France has suffered a wave of deadly terror attacks since January 2015 which have claimed nearly 250 lives, prompting the government to make permanent several state of emergency measures as part of a tough new anti-terror law enacted last year.

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CRIME

Surgeon fined for trying to sell Paris terror attack victim’s x-ray

A Paris court on Wednesday convicted a surgeon for trying to sell an X-Ray image of a wounded arm of a woman who survived the 2015 terror attacks in the French capital.

Surgeon fined for trying to sell Paris terror attack victim's x-ray

Found guilty of violating medical secrecy, renowned orthopaedic surgeon Emmanuel Masmejean must pay the victim €5,000 or face two months in jail, judges ordered.

Masmejean, who works at the Georges-Pompidou hospital in western Paris, posted the image of a young woman’s forearm penetrated by a Kalashnikov bullet on marketplace Opensea in late 2021.

The site allows its roughly 20 million users to trade non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – certificates of ownership of an artwork that are stored on a “blockchain” similar to the technology used to secure cryptocurrencies.

In the file’s description, the surgeon wrote that the young woman he had operated on had “lost her boyfriend in the attack” on the Bataclan concert hall, the focus of the November 2015 gun and bomb assault in which jihadists killed 130 people.

The X-Ray image never sold for the asking price of $2,776, and was removed from Opensea after being revealed by investigative website Mediapart in January.

Masmejean claimed at a September court hearing that he had been carrying out an “experiment” by putting a “striking and historic medical image” online – while acknowledging that it had been “idiocy, a mistake, a blunder”.

The court did not find him guilty of two further charges of abuse of personal data and illegally revealing harmful personal information.

Nor was he barred from practicing as prosecutors had urged, with the lead judge saying it would be “disproportionate and inappropriate” to inflict such a “social death” on the doctor.

The victim’s lawyer Elodie Abraham complained of a “politically correct” judgement.

“It doesn’t bother anyone that there’s been such a flagrant breach of medical secrecy. It’s not a good message for doctors,” Abraham said.

Neither Masmejean, who has been suspended from his hospital job, nor the victim were present for Wednesday’s ruling.

The surgeon may yet face professional consequences after appearing before the French medical association in September, his lawyer Ivan Terel said.

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