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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Verdict due for brother of extremist behind French killing spree

Abdelkader Merah, who once defended his brother following the 2012 attacks, called him a terrorist for the first time during his trial

Abdelkader Merah denies being helping his brother carry out attacks that left seven dead in and around Toulouse in 2012. AFP PHOTO / Benoit PEYRUCQ
Abdelkader Merah denies being helping his brother carry out attacks that left seven dead in and around Toulouse in 2012. AFP PHOTO / Benoit PEYRUCQ

A verdict is expected Thursday in the trial of an alleged Islamist extremist accused of helping his brother with a nine-day killing spree that marked the first of a wave of attacks on French soil by homegrown terrorists.

Prosecutors have called for a life term for Abdelkader Merah, who says that he cannot be blamed for the actions of his brother who stormed a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 killing a rabbi and two of his children, aged three and five, and shooting an eight-year-old girl in the head.

The attack on the school by Mohamed Merah followed the shooting of three paratroopers in the nearby town of Montauban during a one-man terror campaign carried out in the name of Al Qaeda. It ended when the 23-year-old was killed by police after a 32-hour siege of his home.

Prosecutors have painted Abdelkader Merah - nicknamed Bin Laden in his neighbourhood after he glorified the September 11 attacks on the United States - as highly influential in forming the extremist views of his brother. Abdelkader helped his brother to steal the moped and a jacket used in the attacks and were together for days before the attack.

The prosecutors also say that he belonged to an offshoot of Al Qaeda and followed the group’s “teachings and operational advice”.

During the trial, Abdelkader Merah did not deny being a role model for his younger brother but said that was when he was living as a delinquent before converting to Islam in 2006.

At the trial, he described his brother as a terrorist for the first time and said that he felt ashamed for his killings. “I’m not Mohamed Merah, I am Abdelkader Merah. There is a big difference,” he told the court.

But he has not disowned him and said that if he ever had a son, he would name him Mohamed. In 2012, Abdelkader had defended his younger brother saying “Every Muslim would like to give his life to kill his enemy”.

“People say I have mentored by little brother but I would have loved him to follow me in my quest for science,” he told the court. “He did what he did but he remains my little brother. Why should I turn my back on him.”

The case has been embarrassing for the French intelligence officials who were alerted in 2010 after Mohamed turned up in southern Afghanistan and was turned over to the US military.

His intelligence files were not considered a priority before the 2012 killings, a former French intelligence chief, Bernard Squarcini, told the trial. He said that Mohammed Merah had acted alone but “other people were holding his hand”.

Mohamed, who was 23 at the time of the attacks, had been on a register of people suspected of being radicalised in 2006 because of his relationship with his older brother, the intelligence chief said.