Terror trial for Toulouse killer’s brother reopens wounds for French Jews
search

Terror trial for Toulouse killer’s brother reopens wounds for French Jews

Abdelkader Merah is suspected of helping his sibling, Mohammed Merah, plan 2012 attacks including shooting 3 children and a teacher at a Jewish school

This file photo taken on March 25, 2012 in Toulouse, southwestern France shows France's Jewish scout placing flowers under a banner paying tribute to the victims of jihadist Mohammed Merah who killed three children and a teacher at the "Ozar Hatorah" Jewish school. (AFP / ERIC CABANIS)
This file photo taken on March 25, 2012 in Toulouse, southwestern France shows France's Jewish scout placing flowers under a banner paying tribute to the victims of jihadist Mohammed Merah who killed three children and a teacher at the "Ozar Hatorah" Jewish school. (AFP / ERIC CABANIS)

PARIS, France (AFP) — When Abdelkader Merah goes on trial Monday over an Islamist attack in southern France in 2012, the hearings will bring back haunting memories of the bloodshed for the country’s Jews.

Merah’s trial — for allegedly helping his brother prepare for a nine-day shooting spree — is the first arising from the wave of Islamist attacks that have hit France in recent years.

Toulouse terrorist Mohamed Merah (photo credit: AP/France 2)
Toulouse terrorist Mohamed Merah (photo credit: AP/France 2)

Abdelkader’s brother Mohammed killed three soldiers before targeting a Jewish school in Toulouse, gunning down a teacher and three children aged three, five and eight.

The self-proclaimed Al-Qaeda militant was shot dead in a police raid two days later.

“The terrible shock of 19 March, 2012 — we still go through it every day, every time we bring the children to school or come to pick them up,” France’s chief rabbi, Haim Korsia, told AFP.

This file photo taken on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, southwestern France shows policemen marking out the area in front of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school where jihadist Mohammed Merah killed three children and a teacher. (AFP/ERIC CABANIS)

Some 300 Jewish families have since left Toulouse for Israel or other countries, according to Jewish federation CRIF — adding to the estimated 20,000 who emigrated from 2014-2015, spurred by fears over anti-Semitism.

Reproduction photo of 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego, daughter of school headmaster Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego, who was killed in a shooting attack at the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse, France, early Monday morning. (photo credit: Flash90)
8-year-old Miriam Monsonego, daughter of school headmaster Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego, who was killed in a shooting attack at the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse, France, on March 19, 2012 (photo credit: Flash90)

Jerome Fourquet, head of opinion at pollster Ifop who wrote a study on the exodus, said the attack on Ozar Hatorah School was the “trigger event” for the mass departures.

And while the emigration and reports of anti-Semitic abuse have both since slowed, Europe’s biggest Jewish community — numbering half a million people — “remains on edge”, he said.

Nicknamed ‘Bin Laden’

Abdelkader Merah, 35, has been charged with complicity in terrorism, accused of knowingly helping his younger brother with preparations for one of the deadliest attacks against French Jews since World War II.

Abdelkader Merah, the older brother of the Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah. (AFP / M6 / Handout)

He helped him steal the scooter used for the three separate shootings.

Another suspect, 34-year-old Fettah Malki, will also go on trial in Paris for giving Merah a bulletproof jacket, an Uzi submachine gun, and the ammunition he unloaded on his victims.

This file photo taken on March 24, 2012 shows police vehicles carrying Abdelkader Merah, the older brother of the Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah, arriving at the anti-terrorist police headquarters in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret. (AFP/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

Neither denies giving Merah the items, but both insist they were unaware of his intentions.

Abdelkader faces a possible life sentence, and Malki 20 years behind bars.

Like his brother, Abdelkader — nicknamed “Bin Laden” in the neighborhood — was known to intelligence services for his ties to radical Islamists in Toulouse.

Prosecutors claim he shared his brother’s ideology, and the two men were repeatedly in contact in the days before the killings.

Lingering worries

Simon Cohen, a lawyer representing 160 civil parties including the school, said the trial “comes at a historic moment where we are not finished with the wave of jihadist terrorism”.

Merah’s shooting spree preceded a string of attacks from 2015 in France that left 239 people dead.

They include four Jewish men killed by an Islamic State gunman at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015, two days after the attack at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Republican guards stand outside the Hyper Cacher supermarket ahead of a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the deadly attack against the store in Paris on January 5, 2017. (AFP / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT)

After that, 10,000 troops were deployed across France under an anti-terrorism operation known as Sentinelle, guarding sensitive sites including synagogues and Jewish schools.

This is credited with contributing to a 58.5 percent drop in reports of anti-Semitic attacks in 2016 compared to a year earlier.

Yet French Jews continue to worry over their security.

There was outrage over the murder of a Jewish woman in April, pushed from a third-floor window by a Muslim neighbor, and over an attack on a Jewish family in their home in the capital’s suburbs earlier this month.

Sarah Halimi (Courtesy of the Confédération des Juifs de France et des amis d’Israël)

The killing of Sarah Halimi has rallied French Jews who pushed for the murder to be labeled an anti-Semitic hate crime. Prosecutors finally conceded this month.

Chief rabbi Korsia said Jews were comforted by the outpouring of solidarity that followed the Charlie Hebdo and supermarket attacks in 2015, with 3.7 million taking to the streets of France against terrorism.

But he added that many still feel a lack of support.

“There is a kind of keeping us at a distance, an indifference,” he said.

“At demonstrations, at ceremonies, we find ourselves very alone.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

read more:
comments