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Siege gunman's brother 'outraged' at charges, lawyer says

By Saskya Vandoorne, CNN
March 26, 2012 -- Updated 0907 GMT (1707 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Merah's brother has been charged with complicity in murder and attempted murder
  • He feels he is being made a scapegoat, his lawyer says
  • Merah's body shows more than 20 bullet wounds, a Paris prosecutor says
  • France's prime minister defends the police and intelligence services

Paris (CNN) -- The brother of a gunman killed in a siege in southwestern France is outraged to have been charged in connection with an alleged shooting spree by Mohammed Merah, his lawyer said Monday.

Abdelkader Merah was charged Sunday with complicity in seven murders and two attempted murders and taken into custody, the Paris prosecutor's office said Sunday.

He is also being charged with conspiracy to prepare acts of terrorism and group theft, the prosecutor's office said.

But he feels he is being made a scapegoat for the crimes his brother is accused of, his lawyer Anne-Sophie Laguens said.

He feels his brother's acts were "reprehensible," Laguens said on CNN affiliate BFM-TV, adding: "The impression we are getting today is that because we weren't able to put his brother on trial because he is no longer with us then maybe we are coming down on the only person that is present."

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Abdelkader's brother Mohammed Merah, 23, was killed Thursday at the end of a 32-hour siege of the apartment in the city of Toulouse where he was holed up.

He was wanted in the killings of three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three children ages 4, 5, and 7. Two other people were seriously wounded in shootings blamed on him.

Abdelkader Merah was arrested Tuesday night as police closed in on his brother and faced an anti-terror judge Sunday.

Police also questioned Mohammed Merah's mother and his brother's girlfriend, but have released them without charge, the Paris prosecutor said.

The brothers' mother, Zoulika Aziri, was released Friday night, police in Toulouse confirmed. She lives in the Toulouse suburb of Mirail, BFM-TV reported previously.

Police tracked Mohammed Merah down via his mother's computer IP address, which was apparently used to respond to an ad posted by the first shooting victim, officials said.

After the siege, a spokeswoman for Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Saturday an autopsy showed Mohammed Merah had been struck more than 20 times by bullets.

Most of the impacts were on the arms and legs, Elisabeth Allannic said. There were two deadly wounds on the front left temple and crossing his abdomen, she said.

France's prime minister defended the police and intelligence services Friday over their handling of the case, saying they had done well to find Mohammed Merah so quickly.

Questions have been raised as to why Mohammed Merah -- a petty criminal who was placed under surveillance by French authorities after visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan -- was not being more closely watched.

He claimed to have attended an al Qaeda training camp, according to Molins, and was on the U.S. no-fly list for that reason, a U.S. intelligence official said.

Fillon told French radio station RTL that "there was no single element" that would have allowed the police to arrest Mohammed Merah before the killings began.

Investigators say Mohammed Merah filmed the attacks in which he killed seven people.

He was tracked down by police 10 days after the first shooting on March 11.

In that attack, Imad Ibn Ziaten, a paratrooper of North African origin, arranged to meet a man in Toulouse who wanted to buy a scooter Ziaten had advertised online, the interior minister said. The victim said in the ad that he was in the military.

Four days later, two other soldiers were shot dead and another injured by a black-clad man wearing a motorcycle helmet in a shopping center in the city of Montauban, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Toulouse.

In the attack at the private Jewish school Ozar Hatorah on Monday, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet and driving a motor scooter pulled up and shot a teacher and three children -- two of them the teacher's young sons -- in the head. The other victim, the daughter of the school's director, was killed in front of her father.

Police said the same guns were used in all three attacks.

CNN's Louis Fraysse, Anna Prichard and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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