A regional politician in the no-go Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis was placed on trial for apologising for terrorism after stating that he wanted to be like radical Islamic terrorist Mohammed Merah.
Mohamed Bekhtaoui, a member of the Republican People’s Union in the commune of La Courneuve in Seine-Saint-Denis, was in court for saying he wanted to be the “new Mohammed Merah”, an Islamist terrorist who killed seven people in France in 2012, three of them children.
The incident took place in April after police arrested Mr Bekhtaoui for not wearing a mask during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the area. Bekhtaoui had claimed in court that he just wanted to speak with President Macron, Le Parisien reported on Tuesday.
The Seine-Saint-Denis region, which has a large illegal migrant population, has been one of the areas most affected by the Wuhan coronavirus since the outbreak started earlier this year.
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While in custody, Bekhtaoui told officers: “I will become the new Mohamed Merah. I was lucky to rub shoulders with him. He opened my eyes. I’m going to commit carnage.” He then yelled “Allah hu Akbar” several times in a policeman’s face.
He is also said to have tried to grab the prison’s CCTV camera and urinated in his custody cell.
According to the newspaper, Bekhtaoui has 21 prior mentions on his criminal record. He admitted to police he has records for theft, driving without a license, and contempt charges.
Mr Bekhtaoui’s lawyer argued that since the remarks were in private and not public, they should not be punished under the law. The court agreed, and Bekhtaoui was sentenced to 140 hours of community service for contempt.
The Seine-Saint-Denis region has also had a long connection to radical Islamic elements within France, with several terrorist attackers, such as some of those who took part in the 2015 Bataclan massacre, living in the area.