Mother’s testimony at France terror trial angers relatives

October 18, 2017

CORRECTING SPELLING OF LAST NAME TO AZIRI - Zoulika Aziri the mother of the Merah brothers leaves the courthouse in Paris, France, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. The mother of Islamic extremist Mohammed Merah testifies in the trial into the 2012 killings of Jewish schoolchildren and soldiers in southern France.( AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AP) — The lawyer representing the older brother of a French extremist who killed seven people in 2012 told a judge and a jury of magistrates that testimony given by the men’s mother Wednesday was unreliable.

The mother, Zoulika Aziri, lied in some of her statements because — forced to choose between justice and her sons — she naturally chose her sons, defense lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti said.

“One can’t ask a mother to testify against her son,” Dupond-Moretti said.

Abdelkader Merah, 35, is on trial for complicity to terror in connection with the three shooting attacks his younger brother, Mohammed Merah, carried out in and near Toulouse. Most of his victims were Jewish schoolchildren and French soldiers.

Mohammed Merah died in a shootout with police. Tempers flared in the courtroom Wednesday when Dupond-Moretti asked opposing attorneys to question Aziri more gently because she was a mother with a dead son.

Jeers and shouts rose from the benches where relatives of the victims were seated. A brother of French paratrooper Imad Ibn Ziaten broke into tears and left the court room, shouting, “You are mean, a bunch of murderers!”

Aziri was questioned for more than two hours as an informant in her older son’s trial, not as a witness who had to swear to be truthful. She said she was unaware of 23-year-old Mohammed’s plan to target soldiers and Jewish people.

“If I had known, I would have done everything to thwart it,” she said.

Meanwhile, two people were arrested and taken into police custody on Wednesday after officers overseeing security at Merah’s trial recently noticed “suspicious” activity at the historic Paris courthouse where the proceedings are being held.

A person with direct knowledge of the case told The Associated Press that Paris prosecutors opened an investigation for “criminal conspiracy in order to commit a crime or an offense, and unauthorized intrusion in a classified monument.”

The person was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and requested anonymity.

Le Point magazine first reported Wednesday that one the people arrested works at the courthouse. She allegedly gave her access badge to the second suspect, who used it to break into building, Le Point said.

The second suspect is known to police for petty criminal activities and has links to an extremist cell in Paris, according to the magazine.

If convicted of complicity to terror, Abdelkader Merah faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Update hourly