Anger as Toulouse ver­dict ‘does not go far enough’

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The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY MICHEL GURFINKIEL

FRENCH PROS­E­CU­TORS have ap­pealed against the sen­tences against a man and a woman ac­cused of aid­ing their brother’s shoot­ing spree in which he killed a rabbi and three chil­dren.

Ab­delka­der Merah was jailed for 20 years and his sis­ter Fet­tah Malki re­ceived a 15-year sen­tence last Thurs­day after the Spe­cial Crim­i­nal Court in Paris found them guilty of ter­ror­ist of­fences.

But pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor Naima Rudloff is un­der­stood to have been dis­ap­pointed by the sen­tences, after seek­ing the max­i­mum penalty of life im­pris­on­ment for the pair.

Merah and Malki’s brother, Mo­hamed Merah, killed seven peo­ple — in­clud­ing three Jewish chil­dren shot at point­blank range — and maimed six oth­ers in the south­ern French towns of Mon­tauban and Toulouse be­tween March 11 and March 19, 2012. He was killed by se­cu­rity forces three days later.

The ver­dict pro­voked a string of crit­i­cism from French civil so­ci­ety.

Mo­roc­can-born Lat­ifa Ibn Zi­aten, 57 — whose son Imad Ibn Zi­aten was one of Mo­hamed Merah’s vic­tims — said that her son had “died in vain since the court did not go far enough” against the gun­man’s ac­com­plices. Imad was an off-duty sergeant in the First Para­troop­ers Reg­i­ment, an elite unit in the

French army, when he was killed.

Ms Ibn Zi­aten has since be­come an ac­tivist for interfaith peace in op­po­si­tion to against rad­i­cal Is­lam.

“Peo­ple in France are too naïve” in th­ese mat­ters, she said.

“Is­lamist ter­ror­ists may un­der­stand the ver­dict as a sign of weak­ness,” was the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil of French Jewry’s re­sponse, while the con­ser­va­tive mayor of Toulouse, JeanLuc Moudenc, said the “min­i­mal-level

con­dem­na­tion” meant he could only think of the vic­tims.

Ms Rudloff, a pros­e­cu­tor in the Paris Crim­i­nal Court for 27 years, is a known critic of the French ju­di­cial sys­tem and, two years ago, founded Jurispen­sées, a think-tank for ju­di­ciary re­form.

She ar­gued that the court hear­ing the Merah-Malki case “did not draw all the ju­di­cial con­se­quences of the facts”.

Ac­cord­ing to Elie Korchia, one of the Jewish vic­tims’ main coun­sels, Ms Rudloff has an “en­cy­clopaedic vi­sion of the case”.

The pros­e­cu­tion case is said to have com­prised of 117 vol­umes of sev­eral hun­dred pages each. Cou­pled with her wari­ness of the ju­di­cial sys­tem’s short­com­ings, Ms Rudloff is ex­pected to use the case as an op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance her views on the French le­gal sys­tem.

Ab­delka­der Merah’s de­fence coun­sel was Eric Dupont-Moretti, a lawyer rou­tinely dubbed in the French me­dia as “the Ac­quit­ter” for his im­pres­sive record even in seem­ingly des­per­ate cases.

He in­sisted through­out the trial that the court should stick to the let­ter of the law and not al­low pub­lic opin­ion to in­ter­fere with the due process of jus­tice — re­marks that may have in­flu­enced the court in some mea­sure.

But the trial has been an eye-opener for many, giv­ing French pub­lic opin­ion a bet­ter pic­ture of what ji­hadis­tin­spired ter­ror­ism looks like in their own coun­try.

Many were shocked by the de­fen­dants’ staunch iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with rad­i­cal Is­lam and their lack of com­pas­sion for Mo­hamed Merah’s vic­tims.

And many re­alised for the first time, that French Mus­lim sol­diers were as bru­tally tar­geted as Jews.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Eric Dupond-Moretti, de­fence lawyer for Toulouse gun­man’s brother, had ar­gued for an ac­quit­tal

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