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Marseille - A French jeweller who has been controversially charged with murder for shooting dead a teenager who had robbed him has blamed his victim's family for the tragedy.
Stephan Turk, 67, who faces spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted for the killing, said the dead youth, Anthony Asli, could not be held personally responsible for his life of juvenile delinquency which culminated in the ill-fated robbery.
“Yes, of course I regret what happened, for him and for his family,” Turk told Europe 1 radio on Wednesday.
“It is not him who should be blamed, the person to blame is his father,” the jeweller added, in a reference to Asli's troubled background and string of convictions for theft, assault and driving offences.
Turk shot Asli in the back on September 11 as he and another robber were fleeing on a scooter with gems stolen from Turk's shop in the southern resort city of Nice. The driver of the scooter escaped.
The thieves had punched and kicked the jeweller before forcing him to open his safe at gunpoint, behaviour that Turk's many supporters believe should be taken into account when judging him for opening fire as they sped away.
Turk, whose fate has triggered a nationwide debate over gun crime and the treatment of its perpetrators, added: “Where was his family? Where was his father?
“I see his father has told the newspaper 'my son needed money' - but that's just not on.”
Anthony's brother Yannick condemned the jeweller's remarks.
“My brother wasn't (notorious French gangster) Mesrine! He was a little kid, like there are in many neighbourhoods. He (Turk) shouldn't be talking about him. He has already killed him and now he wants to slander him.”
Turk was charged with voluntary homicide, the French equivalent of first degree murder, on Friday but released from custody with an electronic tag on condition that he remains at an agreed address.
Turk's supporters - including more than 1.5 million people who have “liked” a Facebook page set up in his defence - believe he should be acquitted on the grounds that his actions constituted “legitimate defence” under French law.
Legal experts say that defence is unlikely to be successful because the law requires Turk to be able to show his life was in immediate danger when he fired, which the prosecutor in charge of the investigation does not believe to have been the case.
Turk said Wednesday he had not intended to kill, arguing that he had been attempting to shoot out the wheels of the scooter when he hit Asli. If accepted, that version of events could result in the charges being downgraded to manslaughter.
Turk's fate and the related furore were discussed by the French cabinet on Wednesday, underlining the huge impact the case has had.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who visited Nice on Tuesday to assure shopkeepers that the government shared their concern over the frequency of robberies, said the judicial authorities had to be left to decide Turk's fate.
“He is a victim, undeniably, and at the same time he has killed,” Valls said. “It is up to the judiciary to establish the facts of the case.” - AFP