The Toulouse killer will be buried in France because authorities in Algeria refused to let him be buried there, a Muslim official said Thursday.
Abdallah Zekri of the Paris Grand Mosque told AFP Mohamed Merah’s family had asked him to organize a funeral in France after Algeria cited security reasons for rejecting their request for him to be buried in their ancestral homeland.
Zekri said he believed that the 23-year-old, who died in a hail of police bullets last Thursday after a 32-hour siege on his Toulouse apartment, would be buried in the Muslim section of the city’s Cornebarrieu cemetery.
The body had been due to be flown to Algeria on Thursday, his family said Wednesday.
The Toulouse mayor however said he doesn’t want Merah to be buried in his city. Officials in Toulouse have therefore announced on Thursday that Merah’s burial has been delayed 24 hours.
Father to sue French police over son’s death
The father of Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah on Tuesday has hired an Algerian lawyer to sue a crack French police unit over his son’s death, the lawyer told AFP news agency on Wednesday.
“Mr. (Mohamed Benalal) Merah came to our office in Algiers yesterday to formally ask us to sue the French security services (RAID) for not having followed procedure during the attempt to arrest Mohamed Merah and his murder,” Zahia Mokhtari said.
“Mr. Merah thinks that his son was murdered. He has asked us to file a complaint against the French security services,” she added. “We will begin the procedure once the burial is completed.”
Benanel Merah told France 24 that police besieging his son’s Toulouse flat “could have used sleep-inducing gas and taken him like a baby.”
“Why were they so hasty?” he asked. “Why did they kill him? He could have been sentenced to many years in prison or even a life sentence. There is no death penalty in France.”
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday that the father of the gunman who had earlier threatened to sue over his son’s death at the hands of police should keep silent in shame.
“If I were the father of such a monster, I would shut my mouth in shame,” Juppe told Radio Classique.
A senior advisor to Sarkozy, Henri Guaino, also lashed out at the lawsuit threat by Mohamed Merah’s father Mohamed Benalel Merah.
“It is his right, but only one word comes to mind: indecent,” he told France Culture radio. “This guy was a monster who killed in cold blood.”
Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, was shot dead by police at the end of a 32-hour standoff on Thursday after claiming the killings of seven people in a series of shootings in southwestern France.
His father Mohamed Benalel Merah told AFP on Monday: “France is a big country that had the means to take my son alive. They could have knocked him out with gas and taken him in,” he said. “They preferred to kill him.
A close relative, who asked not to be named, said Merah’s remains would arrive in Algiers at 1315 GMT on Thursday, on an Air Algeria flight.
The body “will be accompanied by the mother and a sister of the deceased,” the relative said, adding the corpse would first be washed in France, according to Muslim custom, before being buried in the Medea region south of Algiers.
“I am coordinating the details of the funeral with the father, who is completely overwhelmed by the situation,” the killer’s uncle Djamel Aziri told AFP.
Algerian authorities, however, have yet to agree to Merah being buried in the north African country, said Abdellatif Mellouki, head of a Muslim faith council in southern France.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has said Merah was a “fanatic and a monster” who killed three soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a trainee rabbi in attacks in and around Toulouse.
In an interview to France 24 later Wednesday, Merah’s father said: “If my son was really behind the killings, it was not good.
“If he has really committed these crimes and killed innocent people, he was wrong,” he said, insisting: “If it was really him.
“If he was pushed to commit these acts by other people, it was wrong. He was blinded” by them, the father said.
When police surrounded Merah’s Toulouse apartment last week, the gunman fought off an initial assault and then, in a conversation with a police negotiator, claimed responsibility for the attacks.
He said he shot dead three soldiers in two separate attacks in Toulouse and nearby Montauban on March 11 and 15, then last Monday opened fire at a Jewish school in Toulouse, killing a 30-year-old teacher, his sons aged five and four, and a seven-year-old girl.
The killer’s father told AFP he had noticed a change in his son’s behavior the last time he returned to see his family in Algeria.
“He didn’t appear to want to go out and stayed in his room to recite the Koran and read books. As soon as he’d hear the muezzin (calling for prayer), he would run to the mosque,” he said.
“He was afraid my two other (younger) children could sneak into his room and had a lock fitted on the door.”
On Sunday, authorities charged the gunman’s brother, 29-year-old Abdelkader Merah, with complicity in the attacks, but he has denied any involvement.