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Jewish Museum attack suspect wants French trial

June 4, 2014

PARIS (AP) — The lawyer of the French suspect in the Jewish Museum killings in Brussels said Wednesday there is no proof his client is the shooter and argued he should be tried in France and not in Belgium.

Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, who has been detained since his arrest in Marseille on Friday, appeared at a court hearing in Versailles where he was notified of a European arrest warrant issued by Belgium, the first step in his extradition for the May 24 killing of three people.

The suspect’s lawyer, Apolin Pepiezep, said his client is French, was arrested in France and should be judged here.

He said he and his client will defend their position at a second hearing on Thursday and suggested he may appeal the extradition demand.

“There is nothing to prove today that he is the author of the acts” in question, he said referring to the shooting that left a fourth person seriously injured.

Pepiezep said Nemmouche had stolen the Kalashnikov and pistol he had in his possession when he was arrested, from a car in Belgium. The weapons were of the same type as those used in the killings.

Nemmouche, who spent seven years in French jails, traveled to Syria after his release and spent about a year there, apparently joining an extremist group fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, the French prosecutor has said. He had turned to a radical form of Islam whilst in prison, the prosecutor said.

The suspect was arrested by chance by customs agents at the Marseille bus station on his return to France. Besides the weapons, the agents found ammunition, a sheet scrawled with the name of an extremist group called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and a video displaying the weapons in the shootings.

The suspect refused to answer investigators’ questions during the five days of his initial detention, his lawyer said, adding that he was “calm” at the hearing.