French TV defends broadcast of killer Merah in talks with police
A French television channel on Monday defended its decision to air recordings of Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah negotiating with police, amid widespread outrage and fury among his victims' families.
Meanwhile the Interior ministry said that the police unit responsible for internal investigations is to launch a probe, amid suggestions that police staff were responsible for the leak.
The audio extracts of Merah, who killed seven people in March including three Jewish children, contained "very important information" that warranted broadcast, according to news director Catherine Nayl of the TFI channel
The extracts, broadcast on Sunday, revealed how police negotiated with the gunman during a 32-hour siege at an apartment in Toulouse, southwest France, where they had cornered him after his killings, she said.
"I think this document proves that, right up to the end of the raid, the negotiators were trying to detain Mohamed Merah and to detain him alive."
In the extracts, run on TF1's early evening news programme, the 23-year-old Al-Qaeda-inspired gunman could be heard defying the police and declaring he was not afraid to die.
Merah was eventually killed in a shootout as a special police unit tried to storm his apartment.
"I know that there's a chance you could kill me, that's a risk I'm taking," he said. "So there we are -- know that you are up against a man who is not afraid of death. Death, I love it just as you love life.”
Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned the decision to run the extracts, and lawyers for relatives of the victims said the families were "outraged" by the move and would file complaints.
Jean Tamalet, a lawyer for the brother of a soldier killed by Merah, said "one can only wonder" about the source of the leaked recordings when police and security services were the only ones known to have them.
The head of France's CSA broadcasting authority, Michel Boyon, said he was "profoundly shocked" by the airing of the recordings and that the agency "would not hesitate" to impose penalties on broadcasters.
The head of CRIF, the representative body of Jewish groups in France, also said Monday that the victims' families were right to be furious at hearing the recordings.
"I find the families' reactions justified. Hearing this killer swagger is unbearable for the families," said Richard Prasquier.
Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, shocked France when he killed three soldiers and four Jewish people between March 11 and 19.
Merah filmed his killings, and in March the pan-Arab television channel Al-Jazeera received a copy of the videos on a USB memory key at its Paris bureau.
The channel decided not to run the footage and the main French television networks also said they would not run the material if it became available.