Originally published under the title "A Tale of Racism and Family Violence."
Abdelkader Merah and his sister Souad are on trial in France for inspiring their younger brother Mohamed (top) to go on a 2012 killing spree.
"Burning hatred against France and against Jews, and an orgy of domestic violence."
That was how Anne Chenevat, a major witness, described the Merah family – a divorced mother, three sons and two daughters – to the Special Criminal Court of Paris last Tuesday.
Mohamed Merah, the youngest of the family's sons, killed seven people – including three Jewish children shot at point-blank range – and maimed six others in the southern French towns of Montauban and Toulouse between March 11 and March 19, 2012. He was himself killed by security forces three days later.
The main defendants in the present trial, which started three weeks ago, are his older brother Abdelkader Merah and his older sister Souad. The siblings are accused of inspiring the killing spree. Abdelkader was arrested in 2012; Souad fled to Algeria.
Anne Chenevat, a former partner of the eldest Merah brother, Abdelghani, testified about the toxic influence of the family's Algerian-born mother, Zuleikha Aziri. "I was routinely abused and spat upon by Zuleikha for being 'a dirty French woman' and a 'dirty Jewess'."
Anne Chenevat's importance as a witness stems from the fact that she was for six years the partner of Abdelghani Merah, the eldest Merah brother. According to her, Zuleikha Aziri, the Algerian-born mother, would use electric wire to beat her children. Violence between the brothers was rampant: on one occasion, Abdelkader inflicted seven stab wounds on Abdelghani.
Hatred for the non-Muslim French and antisemitism were held as self-evident in the family." As a result, I was routinely abused and spat upon by Zuleikha for being 'a dirty French woman' and a 'dirty Jewess'," Chenevat said. A Catholic by birth, she once admitted to the Merahs that she had a Jewish grandfather.
She left Abdelghani because of his addiction to alcohol and drugs and raised their son Theodore alone. Also called also as a witness to the trial, Abdelghani concurred with his former companion about the Merahs' ethnic and religious prejudices: "We all grew up hating France and the Jews, it is a fact."
Abdelghani Merah: "We all grew up hating France and the Jews, it is a fact."
According to him, Abdelkader turned to radical Islam in 2006 along with Souad and frequently visited salafist mosques and madrasas in Egypt, and was the main nefarious influence on Mohamed.
Theodore Chenevat, the son of Anne Chenevat and Abdelghani Merah – now a 21-year-old business and economics student – chillingly told the Court that in order to indoctrinate him into jihad, his uncle Abdelkader shared with him videos of "Islamic beheading" and attempted to have him visit mortuaries.
When the counsel of Mohamed Merah's Jewish victims, Elie Korchia, asked him whether Abdelkader and Mohamed should be seen as two heads of a single terrorist beast, he answered that the fugitive older sister Souad should be counted as a third and equally dangerous head.
The trial, which is expected to last until early November, continues.
Michel Gurfinkiel, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum, is the founder and president of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think tank in France.