France jails Islamic group leader after raids reveal plans targeting Jews

The ruling comes six months after Islamist militants killed 17 people in attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Jewish shop.

July 11, 2015 09:13
1 minute read.
Charlie Hebdo

French police patrol near the Eiffel Tower as security in Paris is bolstered after a shooting killed 12. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A French court sentenced the leader of a banned Islamic group to nine years in jail on Friday (July 10) after a trial on terrorism charges.

The ruling comes six months after Islamist militants killed 17 people in attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Jewish shop, prompting France to boost troops guarding sensitive spots such as synagogues and train stations.

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The Paris court delivered the jail sentence to Mohamed Achemlane, one of 14 people tried on charges of "criminal conspiracy related to a terrorist enterprise", in a trial unrelated to the deadly Jan. 7-9 attacks.

The trial followed raids by police on the homes of members of a group called Forsane Alizza (Horsemen of Pride in Arabic), which was banned in 2012. Police found weapons in the raids as well as a file belonging to Achemlane that included a list of "targets" including the Hyper Cacher chain of Jewish stores.

The group was created in 2010 with the official goal of stopping the spread of Islamophobia but it was banned by the government in March 2012 after jihadist propaganda appeared on its website.

Achamlane, 37, who has previous convictions for offences related to weapons and violence, denied any plans to carry out attacks and said the group's aim was simply to "unite young Muslims".

"The sentences are heavy but they also recognise the fact that there is no act but there is a preparation and that terrorism doesn't start from the act itself, terrorism is years of maturation by some people who at some point become ready, we know it always starts with information technology, we know it always starts on social networks, mail exchanges so this trial was interesting because it posed the problem of when do you stop all of this, if too early there is no act, too late means carnage," said Antoine Casubolo Ferro, a lawyer for 'French Victims of Terrorism Association' after the verdict.

France has remained on top security alert since the Jan. 7-9 killings at satirical Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish foodstore by Islamist gunmen acting in league with each other.

It has some 10,000 police and soldiers on patrol nationwide and recently introduced eavesdropping legislation that some said is akin to the invasive powers U.S. spy services were given after the 2001 attacks on New York.

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