Algeria refuses to get Merah’s funeral

Algeria refuses to get Merah’s funeral

Algeria refuses to get Merah’s funeral

A man walks past a wall reading ‘You were a fearless Knight of Islam, you fought against the Zionist plague... Rest in Peace !’ in Tarbes, referring to Merah. AFP photo

The Islamist gunman branded a “monster” by President Nicolas Sarkozy will be buried in France because Algeria refused to let him be buried there, a Muslim official said yesterday.

Abdallah Zekri of the Paris Grand Mosque said Mohamed Merah’s family had asked him to organize a funeral in France after Algeria cited security reasons for rejecting their request for him to be buried in their ancestral homeland.

“The family has asked me to organize a funeral within 24 hours,” said Zekri, who was speaking in the southwestern city of Toulouse where Merah died on March 22. Zekri said he believed that the 23-year-old, would be buried in the Muslim section of the city’s Cornebarrieu cemetery. Merah boasted before he died that he gunned down three soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a teacher in three separate attacks. Merah’s father is suing a crack French police unit over his son’s death as the family prepares for a funeral in Algeria.

Algerian lawyer Zahia Mokhtari said on March 28 she had been hired by the dead man’s father, Mohamed Benalal Merah, to press charges against French police for shooting him dead. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe reacted angrily to the threat of a legal challenge. “If I were the father of such a monster, I would shut my mouth in shame,” Juppe said. Merah’s father insisted on March 28 he would not “shut up.”

Sarkozy catches Hollande after killings

Two polls on March 28 showed France’s conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of his Socialist challenger in the first round of a presidential election next month.

A survey by TNS-Sofres/Sopra group found that Sarkozy had pulled ahead in voting intentions for the April 22 first-round vote with 29 percent versus 28 percent for Francois Hollande. Sarkozy gained three points since the previous poll two weeks ago, while Hollande lost two points, the pollster said. The survey of 1,000 people was conducted on March 26 and March 27, just days after police shot dead an Merah. A second survey by pollsters CSA showed Sarkozy consolidating his first round lead. He was steady on 30 percent for the first round, while Hollande slipped by two points to 26 percent.

Compiled from AFP, Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.