Mohammad Merah, the terrorist who killed seven people in southern France, including four Jews at the Otzar Hatorah school in Toulouse, was suffering “psychological difficulties” after separating from his wife days before the attacks, his lawyer said Wednesday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, attorney Christian Etelin claimed his client was a “lone wolf” with no organized crime or terrorist connections and was “an abandoned child” angry at a long-absent father.
Merah, a 23-year-old Franco-Algerian who claimed ties to al-Qaeda, was killed by French police on March 22 after a lengthy stand-off at his Toulouse apartment.
According to reports he was shot in the head by a police sniper as he leapt from a window amid a gunfight with onrushing police tactical officers who raided his hideout.
Etelin, who represented Merah and last saw him on February 24, about two weeks before the first killings March 11, told AP, “I maintain that it is a case of a lone wolf. It's in the context of the contradictions he wrapped himself in, the psychological difficulties that he had to cope with, that everything happened. ... There was no infrastructure or organization that he would have been the soldier for.”
Etelin said Merah got married in an Islamic ceremony in December but the couple separated less than a week before the first attack.
“He had a failure inside of him, a suffering of the abandoned child,” he told AP. “This situation of abandon that he suffered again after the separation with his wife. Something happened in him that was very personal.”
He said his client had "a certain duplicity" that he couldn't keep under control.
French intelligence officials have suggested that Merah had a double life or even split personality, AP said, a fact which allowed him to party in nightclubs and drink alcohol days before the killings with acquaintances who had no idea he was building up an arsenal of weapons, visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan and methodically plotting malicious attacks.
French politicians have described Merah as an isolated killer but police are searching for potential accomplices, the report said. Merah's brother is already in custody, suspected of helping prepare the attacks.
Earlier on Wednesday it was reported that Merah's body will be sent from Toulouse to Algeria for burial. Merah was born in France and grew up in Toulouse, but his family is of Algerian origin and his father, who lives in Algeria, wants his body buried there.
On Monday, Merah’s father said he planned to sue France over his son’s death.
“France is a big country that had the means to take my son alive,” said the father. “They could have knocked him out with gas and taken him in. They preferred to kill him.”
He added, “I will hire the biggest named lawyers and work for the rest of my life to pay (their) costs. I will sue France for killing my son.”