PARIS (AP) – French prosecutors have filed preliminary murder and terrorism charges against the brother of a gunman who killed Jewish schoolchildren and paratroopers in attacks that stunned the country.
An official from the prosecutor's office says the preliminary charges were handed to Abdelkader Merah on Sunday. He is suspected of complicity to murders and thefts and involvement in a terrorist enterprise.
Preliminary charges under French law mean there is strong reason to suspect a crime was committed but allow magistrates more time to investigate.
Merah's younger brother Mohamed was shot dead by police after claiming responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers earlier this month.
The moves suggest investigators have strong reason to believe that 23-year-old gunman Mohamed Merah was not acting alone when he planned his attacks.
Merah claimed responsibility for the killings during a standoff with police that ended when he died Thursday in a hail of gunfire as he jumped out a window.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said the inquiry is also looking at anyone else who could have been involved in planning the attacks earlier this month in the city of Toulouse and nearby Montauban.
Investigators are trying to determine what role 30-year-old Abdelkader Merah played in acquiring his younger brother's arsenal and financing his trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East. Mohamed Merah claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda and told police he traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan for training.
Abdelkader is suspected of possible complicity to murder and theft and involvement in a terrorist enterprise, the prosecutor's statement said. Abdelkader was questioned several years ago about alleged links to a network sending Toulouse-area youths to Iraq, but no action was brought against him at the time.
The brother's girlfriend, Yamina Mesbah, was released early Sunday without charge. The Merah brothers' mother was released Friday night, also without charge.
The girlfriend denied any involvement in what happened and said she was shocked by the killings, her lawyer Guy Debuissou said, adding that Abdelkader Merah appeared to have led a double life.
"This woman was unaware of anything about her husband's accessory, complementary or secret life," the lawyer said. The couple married according to Muslim custom in 2006, but did not undergo the civil ceremony required in France for a marriage to be recognized.
Abdelkader Merah took five or six trips to Egypt, ostensibly to study Arabic literature, and his girlfriend joined him on two or three, the lawyer said.
During questioning by police, the lawyer said, Mesbah learned that Merah had had other motivations for his trip to Egypt and "a life that led him toward an extremely intense … fundamentalism."