Toulouse shooter’s dad to sue
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The father of an Islamist gunman, branded a “monster” after he boasted of killing seven people in southern France, is suing a crack French police unit over his son's death as the family prepares for a funeral in Algeria.
The body of 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, was due to arrive in Algeria on Thursday, a family member told AFP.
He was shot dead by French police on March 22 after a lengthy stand-off followed by an exchange of gunfire at his Toulouse apartment.
The body “will be accompanied by the mother and a sister of the deceased”, a 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 co-ordinating 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 have reportedly not yet agreed to a family request that Merah be buried in the north African country.
Algerian lawyer Zahia Mokhtari told AFP on Wednesday she had been hired by the dead man's father, Mohamed Benalal Merah, to press charges against French police for shooting him dead.
“Mr Merah thinks that his son was murdered. He has asked us to file a complaint against the French security services,” she said. “We will begin the procedure once the burial is completed.”
French 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.
Merah's father insisted on Wednesday he would not “shut up” after saying he wanted to sue over the death of his son.
The comment, reported in an Algerian Arab-language daily newspaper, came after French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe reacted angrily to the threat of a legal challenge.
“If I were the father of such a monster, I would shut my mouth in shame,” Juppe said.
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 behaviour 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.
A video apparently of the killings was sent to the Al-Jazeera news channel Tuesday, along with a letter in poorly written French claiming the attacks in the name of al-Qaeda.
Al-Jazeera said it would not broadcast the footage.
Investigators are attempting to determine who posted the video, which was sent from a town 20 kilometres from Toulouse on the day before police surrounded Mohamed Merah's flat.
Police believe a “third man”, in addition to the Merah brothers, might have been involved in helping steal the scooter used to carry out the crimes and maybe in posting the video. - Sapa-AFP