Toulouse gunman's brother faces conspiracy charges
The older brother of the Islamist gunman whose seven murders shocked France was presented to a judge Sunday to face charges of complicity in murder and planning terror attacks, prosecutors said.
The judge must now decide whether to formally charge Abdelkader Merah, who denies helping Mohamed Merah kill but reportedly said he is "proud" of him and said he was present when Mohamed stole a scooter used to flee the crime scenes.
Abdelkader, 29, and his girlfriend were taken in for questioning on Wednesday, a day before Mohamed died in a hail of police bullets after a 32-hour siege on his apartment in Toulouse in southwestern France.
The girlfriend was released without charge earlier Sunday but Abdelkader was taken from the French police's anti-terrorist headquarters in a Paris suburb to face an investigating judge in the city's central courts.
"An inquiry into complicity in murder and criminal conspiracy with a view to preparing terrorist acts was opened Sunday" into Abdelkader Merah, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The suspect also faces the possible charge of gang robbery of a scooter, it said. Prosecutors said on Wednesday that it appeared Abdelkader may have been involved in a network that took jihadists to Iraq in 2007.
Mohamed Merah, who was labelled a "monster" by President Nicolas Sarkozy, told police during the siege that ended with his death that he regretted not having killed more Jewish children, a report said Sunday.
Unnamed police officers also told the Journal du Dimanche that he said he planned to carry out attacks in Paris.
Police said Abdelkader Merah has claimed to be "proud" of his brother's acts and admitted he accompanied his brother to a Yamaha dealership where Mohamed, 23, asked in vain how to deactivate the GPS on a scooter he had just stolen.
Abdelkader also told police he was present when his brother stole the powerful scooter on which he fled after carrying out his attacks that killed three soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a trainee rabbi, police said.
Police and prosecutors have described Abdelkader as a more radical Islamist than his brother. The elder brother has long been known to police for his "fundamentalist religious convictions", a police source said.
Speculation is rife over Mohamed Merah's motives and whether he had any accomplices. He claimed to be an Al-Qaeda member killing to avenge Palestinian children and punish France for sending troops to Afghanistan.
Merah told police during the siege that he had bought his weapons using money from burglaries and hold-ups, according to France's national intelligence coordinator Ange Mancini.
Mohamed's mother Zoulhika Aziri, released without charge on Friday, was "wracked with guilt and remorse" over her son's actions, her lawyer Jean-Yves Gougnaud said. Fearing reprisals, she would not return home, he added.
Hundreds of people paid tribute to the victims on Saturday in silent marches in Lyon in eastern France and Rouen in the north, clutching flowers and bearing placards with messages such as "We will never forget".
Large gatherings were planned nationwide for Sunday, including an inter-religious march in Toulouse.
Sarkozy held an emergency meeting Saturday with Prime Minister Francois Fillon and cabinet ministers to discuss security issues amid criticism of the way police handled the affair.