France opens probe into release of recordings of Toulouse killer

France opens probe into release of recordings of Toulouse killer

Lawyer for victim's family calls airing of audio an 'apology for a crime'

Toulouse killer Mohamed Merah. (photo credit:  Patrick Crasnier/CIT'images/Flash90)
Toulouse killer Mohamed Merah. (photo credit: Patrick Crasnier/CIT'images/Flash90)

French authorities are investigating the leak of recordings of conversations between police and a young man who carried out a terrorist rampage in southern France earlier this year.

French television station TF1 aired audio recordings Sunday night that it said were of Mohamed Merah talking to police during a standoff in March that ended with him being shot dead. Police said Merah espoused radical Islam and killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said Monday it has opened an investigation into the broadcast, which could violate French rules on the privacy of investigations.

The broadcast, in which the suspect describes his trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan and explained why he won’t surrender to police, upset families of victims of the killings.

Mohamed Merah was killed by police after a tense 32-hour standoff outside his apartment in the southern French city of Toulouse. Merah was accused of carrying out a number of deadly shootings, including outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in the city.

“Know that in front of you there is a man who is not afraid of death,” he said at one point in the recordings. “My death, I love you like others love life.”

He also told negotiators he wanted to carry out more attacks on sites he happened upon, as he did the Jewish school.

TF1 pulled the recordings off its website, but they are circulating on other sites. Victims’ families are especially concerned that videos of the killings, which police say Merah recorded, may leak publicly

“We are not going to wait for the video of the crimes to appear on the Internet. The prosecutor must stop this,” said Mehana Mouhou, lawyer for the family of the first victim, paratrooper Imad Ibn Ziaten.

The lawyer said Imad’s mother “vomited all night. This is not information. It’s an apology for a crime.” He said he feared the broadcast could incite other violent, deranged people to attack.

TF1 anchor Harry Roselmack told The Associated Press that the station ran the recordings “because the duty of any journalist is to inform, with responsibility. We expunged all references to the killings from the recordings, but we are aware of the shock that the families of victims could feel in hearing Mohamed Merah.”

Richard Prasquier, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, known as CRIF, said victims’ families were justifiably troubled by the release of the audio.

“Hearing this swaggering killer is unbearable for the families,” he told AFP.

“Those who alleged that Mohamed Merah was the result of societal failings should now realize it is the indoctrination by radical Islamist networks that is responsible,” he added. “He spared no words for those he killed. He only thought of killing more. The ideology of radical Islam, this ideology of death is a monstrosity that must be uprooted,” the official said.

CRIF representative in Mid-Pyrenees, Nicole Yardeni, said she was “shocked” and “terrified” by the contents of the conversations between Mohamed Merah and the police, which show the “great determination” of the Toulouse killer.

“He was really entrenched in this nihilistic, death-dealing ideology in spite of his young age. This is the global Jihad, which seeks to kill the crusaders. This is a particular form of Islam as propagated by al-Qaeda, which has declared war on the crusaders and the Jews. What is striking is that while killing Jews is perfectly fine, it is not a priority. He is someone who has decided to declare war on the West,” said Yardeni.

France’s Interior Ministry insisted that any recordings the police made of the standoff with Merah were protected by privacy rules and had not been made public.

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