Even in death, Mohammed Merah overshadowed the proceedings. The case has highlighted the challenges in the months ahead as France prepares for a number of terrorism trials. In many cases, grieving families have been left frustrated that the main perpetrators died during or shortly after their attacks and will never face trial.
The newspaper Le Monde said Mr. Merah’s trial was both “indispensable and impossible.”
It featured emotional testimony from witnesses to the shootings, as well as from victims and their relatives. They included a fourth paratrooper, Loïc Liber, who survived but is now tetraplegic, as well as Samuel Sandler, whose son Jonathan and grandsons Arié and Gabriel, 5 and 3, were killed in the attack.
“How can you execute a child with a pacifier in his mouth?” Mr. Sandler asked the court. “It’s absolute evil.”
But the court proceedings were also tense, peppered by clashes between the plaintiffs and the defense team, which repeatedly argued that there was no evidence that Mr. Merah knew about his brother’s plans and that the court should not convict him for his brother’s crimes.
“I say and I say again that I have nothing to do with the assassinations that my brother carried out,” Mr. Merah told the court on Thursday before the verdict. His defense lawyers had asked for his acquittal.
Asked about comments made after the attacks in which he had expressed pride in his brother’s actions, Mr. Merah told the court that he now condemned them and felt “a mix of sadness, shame and regret.”
Mr. Merah was tried over five weeks in a special court for terrorism crimes before a panel of judges rather than a jury. He was arrested and charged in the days after his brother’s shootings, and has been in pretrial detention since.
In court, prosecutors depicted Mr. Merah as a radical Islamist who indoctrinated his younger brother and helped him logistically, notably by helping him steal a Yamaha TMax scooter and buy a motorcycle jacket, which were used by the gunman during the shootings. Mr. Merah said he did not know the items would be used to carry out a terrorist attack.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom in central Paris after the verdict, Éric Dupond-Moretti, Mr. Merah’s lawyer, said that the judges had “resisted pressure from public opinion” and called his client a “fake culprit who was fabricated to satisfy their thirst for justice.”
Two of Mr. Merah’s siblings, both at odds with the rest of the Merah family, described a toxic family environment where hatred of Jews, Americans and France was commonplace. Mr. Merah’s mother, upon learning about the shootings, is reported to have said: “My son brought France to its knees.”
Another defendant in the case, Fettah Malki, was also found guilty of taking part in a criminal terrorist conspiracy on Thursday and sentenced to a 14-year prison term.
Mr. Malki, 35, who lived in Mr. Merah’s neighborhood and had a record of petty crimes, admitted that he provided Mr. Merah with the submachine gun and bulletproof vest that were used in the shootings, but he denied knowing about the shooter’s intentions.
Speaking outside the courtroom after the verdict, lawyers for the families of victims expressed satisfaction that Mr. Merah had been convicted, though some were disappointed he had not been found guilty of the complicity charges.
Latifa Ibn Ziaten, the mother of one of the paratroopers killed by Mr. Merah, told reporters that she felt the court had not gone “all the way.”
“I think that we are being too naïve and that we have to open our eyes,” she said, crying. “This isn’t what I expected.”
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