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      Toulouse Man Sentenced to Prison for Praising Merah

      French court sentences a 20-year-old man to three months in prison for praising terrorist Mohamed Merah.
      By Elad Benari, Canada
      First Publish: 3/30/2012, 9:36 PM

      French Police at Toulouse siege
      French Police at Toulouse siege
      Reuters

      A French court sentenced on Friday a 20-year-old man from the same Toulouse neighborhood as gunman Mohamed Merah to three months in prison for praising his crimes.

      AFP reported that the man, Mohamed Redha Ghezali, was convicted of “provoking racial hatred” and “apology for terrorism”. Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet told the French news agency that the conviction was a signal that authorities would not tolerate any statements supporting Merah's crimes.

      According to the report, Ghezali was arrested last week in the Toulouse area of Les Izards, a few hours after Merah was shot dead in a hail of bullets after a 32-hour siege that followed his killings of three soldiers and three children and a teacher at the Otzar Hatorah Jewish school.

      The local Depeche du Midi newspaper reported that while haranguing a group of police officers, he said, “My mate Mohamed, that's a real man. It's too bad he didn't have time to finish the job.”

      According to the AFP report, prosecutors had asked for a nine-month sentence and Ghezali had denied making the statement in court. He was not immediately jailed pending a possible appeal.

      Valet told AFP prosecutors would pursue anyone expressing support for Merah "given the extreme seriousness of his acts."

      “I will use this decision to send a message: I will be very firm, I will not let any of this kind of talk pass,” he said.

      Earlier on Friday, French police detained 19 people in a crackdown on Islamist extremists with more raids to come, according to the president.

      Nicolas Sarkozy gave no details about the arrests, which were a part of an operation by France's principal intelligence agency, the DCRI.

      A police investigator told The Associated Press the arrests did not stem from the inquiry into the Toulouse murders.

      Sarkozy promised a crackdown on Islamic extremism immediately after Merah’s murders. Friday’s raids are seen as a high profile show of force.

      Earlier this week, France blocked the entry of a number of radical Islamic clerics who wished to visit Paris.

      (Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)