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French policeman’s killer a Muslim, boasting a criminal record

New details have emerged in connection with the killer of the French police officer. The suspect’s attorney said his client was a Muslim. The young man’s mother also spoke up, saying her son was innocent and authorities were just trying to pin the murder on him. Meanwhile, the prime minister met with representatives of the police unions and agreed on stricter punishment for those who attack officers.

France was utterly shocked by the tragic death of 36-year-old Eric Masson, a police officer in Avignon. The young man was shot during an anti-narcotics operation by a drug dealer, who fled the scene. The 19- and 20-year-old criminals – the alleged killer and his accomplice – were arrested on the motorway near Avignon on Sunday night. Police suspects that they were headed to Spain. Talking about the incident to BFMTV, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said police have detained four people, all travelling in the same car: the two suspects, the driver, and a woman. The interior minister did not disclose the woman’s identity and her role in the events, but told the reporter that the suspected killer was among the four detainees. He also revealed that they were French citizens under the age of 30, born in France.

Photos on social media suggest that the young man had previously been to Morocco, so investigators did not rule out the possibility that he and his accomplice had plans to reach the North African country via Spain when they were apprehended.

Jean Messiha, a former member of the right-wing National Rally, also reacted to the interior minister’s announcement that the young murder suspect was a French national born in France. He recalled that both the Merah and Kouachi brothers were French nationals. They were the terrorists who carried out the jihadi attacks in Toulouse and on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo in 2012, killing dozens of innocent people. Messiha reiterated Marine Le Pen’s statement a few days ago that there is a clear link between immigration and crime.

More and more details have come to light about the case as the investigation progressed. According to BFMTV, the alleged perpetrator and his accomplice kept hiding in a basement in Avignon for three days, which was also shown on video. The small room had books, a television and a refrigerator in it, and was near the flat of the main suspect’s mother. BFMTV reported that an informant had led police to the scene, who observed the two young men for several days and then followed them to the motorway, where they took them into custody.

The main suspect’s mother told a reporter from Cnews that her son is an honest, kind and unassertive young man, who spent every night at home. She found it inconceivable that he was hiding in the basement presented in the media. She said she had no idea why her son is accused of murder, claiming that he has nothing to do with killing the police officer.

Responding to questions from the press, Louis-Alain Lemaire, the murder suspect’s lawyer, also claimed that the young man was innocent, adding that his defendant denies all charges pressed against him. The lawyer stressed that his defendant had no part in the crime, adding that he was at home with his family at the time of the murder and did not go out because of Ramadan, a statement suggesting in itself that a suspect is a Muslim man.

Attacks and threats against French police appear to be ongoing. A graffiti that appeared in Lyon threatens that, after the officer shot dead in Avignon, the Lyon police station will be the next target. Officers are no longer taken aback by such vicious threats, according to Ludovic Cassier, the departmental secretary of Unite SGP Police. Thierry Suquet, the local police chief, has described the threat as unacceptable and intolerable.

The country, which has yet to recover from the shockwaves caused by the killing of an officer in Avignon, witnessed another grave incident of late. On Monday evening, a knife-wielding woman attacked officers arriving at her home to settle a domestic dispute. According to information obtained by Le Parisien, the rampaging woman, armed with knives in both her hands, threatened to hurt her husband and herself before turning against police. In a bid to subdue her, apparently in a deranged mental state, one of the officers fired a rubber bullet, but to no avail. Eventually, another officer was forced to shoot the woman in the leg.

The recent sharp rise in anti-police attacks has prompted Prime Minister Jean Castex to meet the representatives of several police unions in his office. Following their talks, he announced that anyone who attacks an officer or gendarme will face much tougher punishment going forward. According to the prime minister’s statement, those sentenced to life for crimes against a police officer or gendarme will serve a minimum of thirty years in jail. Bseides, reducing the punishment of those imprisoned for anti-police attacks will be governed by significantly stricter rules. Most union representatives were pleased with the outcome of the consultation, saying the government has listened to their requests for tougher penalties. Some, however, were cautious to point out that judges have the final say in the legal procedure, so the actual punishments are up to their judgement, BFMTV reported.


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