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Archive for Sunday, March 25, 2012

French gunman’s brother charged, denies role

March 25, 2012

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— A Frenchman suspected of helping his brother plot attacks against Jewish schoolchildren and paratroopers was handed preliminary murder and terrorism charges Sunday.

But Abdelkader Merah denied any role in the attacks. Investigators looking into France’s worst terror attacks in years believe Merah helped his brother Mohamed prepare the killings, and are investigating whether they were linked to an international network of extremists or worked on their own.

Abdelkader’s lawyer said he feels like “a scapegoat.”

“No one knew anything” about what Mohamed was plotting, lawyer Anne-Sophie Laguens told reporters in Paris. She dismissed reports that Abdelkader had praised his brother’s attacks. “He was never proud of those actions.”

Mohamed Merah, 23, claimed responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers earlier this month. After a 32-hour standoff with police, he died Thursday in a hail of gunfire as he jumped out a window of his apartment in the southern city of Toulouse.

Since then, attention has focused on his older brother Abdelkader Merah, who was handed preliminary charges on Sunday of complicity to murder and theft, and involvement in a terrorist enterprise, prosecutors said. Detained last week, he will remain in custody pending further investigation.

Preliminary charges under French law mean there is strong reason to believe a crime was committed but allow magistrates more time to investigate.

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