French prosecutors have filed preliminary murder and terrorism charges against the brother of a gunman who killed Jewish schoolchildren and paratroopers in attacks that stunned the country.
An official from the prosecutor’s office says the preliminary charges were handed to Abdelkader Merah today.
He is suspected of complicity in murders and thefts and involvement in a terrorist enterprise.
Preliminary charges under French law mean there is strong reason to suspect a crime was committed but allow magistrates more time to investigate.
Merah’s younger brother Mohamed was shot dead by police after a 32-hour siege at his apartment in Toulouse on Thursday after claiming responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers.
The brother’s girlfriend, Yamina Mesbah, was released early today without charge.
Authorities suspect Abdelkader had a role in acquiring his younger brother’s arsenal and financing his trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.
Mohamed Merah claimed allegiance to al Qaida and told police he travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan for training.
Abdelkader was questioned several years ago about alleged links to a network sending Toulouse-area youths to Iraq, but no action was brought against him at the time.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said the inquiry is also looking at anyone else who could have been involved in planning the attacks.
The Merah brothers’ mother was released on Friday night.
Abdelkader’s girlfriend denied any involvement in what happened and said she was shocked by the killings, her lawyer Guy Debuisson said, adding that Abdelkader appeared to have led a double life.
“This woman was unaware of anything about her husband’s accessory, complementary or secret life,” the lawyer said. The couple married according to Muslim custom in 2006, but did not undergo the civil ceremony required in France for a marriage to be recognised.
Abdelkader Merah took five or six long trips to Egypt, ostensibly to study Arabic literature, and his girlfriend joined him on two or three, the lawyer said.
During questioning by police, the lawyer said, Mesbah learned that Merah had had other motivations for his trip to Egypt and “a life that led him toward an extremely intense ... fundamentalism.”
“The question to ask today is if Mohamed was the only one that was indoctrinated. Was it just him or are there others?” Debuisson asked.
The first paratrooper killed, Imad Ibn Ziaten, was buried today in his hometown in Morocco on the Mediterranean coast. Townspeople held French and Moroccan flags as soldiers carried the coffin to the grave.
Thousands of people in Paris and Toulouse marched silently today urging unity and tolerance of all religions and cultures after the killings.
An enormous French tricolour flag borne by dozens of marchers waved above the Paris march as it snaked away from the Place de la Bastille, birthplace of the French Revolution.