Uproar in France over tapes of terrorism suspect
Tue, 10 Jul 2012 11:56a.m.
By Nicolas Vaux-Montagny
French authorities are investigating how recorded conversations between police and a young man accused of a terrorist rampage earlier this year were leaked to the media. The broadcasting of the tapes, meanwhile, has outraged the families of those killed in the suspect's alleged shooting spree in southern France.
French television station TF1 aired audio recordings Sunday night that it said were of Mohamed Merah talking to police during a standoff in March in Toulouse that ended with him being shot dead. Police say Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman, killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in attacks that jolted France's national psyche and revived fears about extremist violence.
The Paris prosecutor's office said Monday it has opened an investigation into the broadcast, which could violate French rules on the privacy of investigations.
In the recordings, the suspect describes travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan and explains why he won't surrender to police.
Police say Merah espoused radical Islam and claimed allegiance to al-Qaida. Merah was holed up in his apartment for 32 hours surrounded by police before dying in a shootout.
TF1 pulled the recordings off its website, but they are circulating on other sites. Victims' families are especially concerned that videos of the killings, which police say Merah recorded, may leak publicly.
"We are not going to wait for the video of the crimes to appear on the internet. The prosecutor must stop this," said Mehana Mouhou, lawyer for the family of the first victim, paratrooper Imad Ibn Ziaten.
The lawyer said Imad's mother "vomited all night. This is not information. It's an apology for a crime." He said he feared the broadcast could incite other violent, deranged people to attack.
TF1 anchor Harry Roselmack told The Associated Press that the station ran the recordings "because the duty of any journalist is to inform, with responsibility. We expunged all references to the killings from the recordings, but we are aware of the shock that the families of victims could feel in hearing Mohamed Merah."
France's Interior Ministry insisted that any recordings the police made of the standoff with Merah were protected by privacy rules and had not been made public.
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