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October 2, 2017 2:48 pm

Trial of Two Men Accused of Complicity in 2012 Toulouse Jewish School Massacre Gets Underway

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

French police stand outside Ozar Hatorah following the attack of Mohammed Merah earlier in 2012. Photo: Screenshot via CNN.

Two men accused of complicity in the massacre of four people — including three children — at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France five years ago went on trial on Monday.

M0hammed Merah, an antisemitic radical Muslim, shot to death teacher Jonathan Sandler, his sons Aryeh, 6, and Gabriel, 3, and Miriam Monsonego, 8, the daughter of Ozar Hatorah’s principal, on March 19, 2012.

Merah’s brother, Abdelkader, 35, and friend Fettah Malki, 34, were charged as accomplices in the attack. According to the BBC, Abdelkader was accused of helping Mohammed steal a scooter he used to drive to and escape from the site of the attack and Malki was charged with providing Mohammed with a weapon and ammunition.

According to the prosecutors, Abdelkader was involved with Islamist groups and helped to radicalize Mohammed. Abdelkader has denied this, but said he was “proud of the way [Mohammed] died, as a fighter — that’s what the Qur’an teaches us.”

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According to the Daily Mail, defense lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti claimed Abdelkader was on trial “by default,” since M0hammed was killed in a police shootout shortly after the attack. “There is no evidence in the case file to convict him,” stated the attorney. “That’s what I think, that’s what I’ll say.”

Zoulikha Aziri, mother of Mohammed and Abdelkader Merah, attended the opening day of the trial. She condemned the massacre, but defended Abdelkader, saying, “I cry for the victims, for the families. That’s not what Islam is about. I’m sorry about what Mohammed Merah did, but Abdelkader had nothing to do with that.”

Samuel Sandler — father of Jonathan and grandfather of Gabriel and Aryeh Sandler — reacted angrily to Aziri’s presence in the courtroom. He described Mohammed and the accused as “rotten people who rot in a hole.”

Another Merah brother, Abdelghani, sounded a very different note from his relatives. An opponent of radical Islam, he said, “There is in this doctrine a point of no return. Abdelkader Merah has long since crossed it. If he ever gets out, he will remain a danger to France.”

Abdelghani has previously blamed Mohammed’s actions on the racism and antisemitism taught by their parents. “My parents raised you in an atmosphere of racism and hate,” he said. “My mother always said: ‘We, the Arabs, we were born to hate Jews.’ This speech, I heard it all throughout my childhood.”

In a 2015 interview with The Algemeiner, Yaakov Monsonego, father of eight-year-old victim Miriam Monsonego, reflected on the trauma of the attack. Asked how he continued in his work, he said, “It’s no longer the same strength that drives me. It’s a different impulse.”

This strength was informed, he stated, by the fact that the Toulouse school continued to thrive and he has remained its principal. “The school has a soul and a life,” he said. Had he left, “everything we achieved over twenty years would have vanished.”

Monsonego also said that France had woken up to the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. “The people of France have also understood that Jews are only the first victims,” he noted. “If the state cannot ensure the safety of its citizens, what will come next?”

Asked, however, about the process of healing from his loss, he simply stated, “There is no healing.”

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