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French report
by Euro Reporter
2012-07-10 07:40:32
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Uproar in France over tapes of terrorism suspect

French authorities are investigating how recorded conversations between police and a young man accused of a terrorist rampage earlier this year were leaked to the media. The broadcasting of the tapes, meanwhile, has outraged the families of those killed in the suspect's alleged shooting spree in southern France. French television station TF1 aired audio recordings Sunday night that it said were of Mohamed Merah talking to police during a standoff in March in Toulouse that ended with him being shot dead. Police say Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman, killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in attacks that jolted France's national psyche and revived fears about extremist violence.

The Paris prosecutor's office said Monday it has opened an investigation into the broadcast, which could violate French rules on the privacy of investigations. In the recordings, the suspect describes travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan and explains why he won't surrender to police. Police say Merah espoused radical Islam and claimed allegiance to al-Qaida. Merah was holed up in his apartment for 32 hours surrounded by police before dying in a shootout. TF1 pulled the recordings off its website, but they are circulating on other sites. Victims' families are especially concerned that videos of the killings, which police say Merah recorded, may leak publicly.

"We are not going to wait for the video of the crimes to appear on the Internet. The prosecutor must stop this," said Mehana Mouhou, lawyer for the family of the first victim, paratrooper Imad Ibn Ziaten. The lawyer said Imad's mother "vomited all night. This is not information. It's an apology for a crime." He said he feared the broadcast could incite other violent, deranged people to attack. TF1 anchor Harry Roselmack told The Associated Press that the station ran the recordings "because the duty of any journalist is to inform, with responsibility. We expunged all references to the killings from the recordings, but we are aware of the shock that the families of victims could feel in hearing Mohamed Merah." France's Interior Ministry insisted that any recordings the police made of the standoff with Merah were protected by privacy rules and had not been made public.


France shows caution on EU integration

The president appeared to signal Paris wasn't ready to pursue deeper European integration in the short term, raising doubts over the viability of plans to resolve the euro-zone debt crisis by binding countries closer together. The French and German leaders agreed that a more integrated Europe would help fix problems in the bloc, as they celebrated half a century of political friendship in this eastern French city on Sunday. But French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared at odds over the pace. "Today, we must complete the economic and monetary union with a political union," Ms. Merkel said in a speech at the foot of Notre-Dame de Reims, the cathedral that was partly destroyed by German forces during World War I. Mr. Hollande sounded a more cautious note, saying the bloc needed "to combine national sovereignty—to which we are attached here in France, like in Germany—with our European commitment."

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Franco-German reconciliation, sealed by Gen. Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in July 1962, both Mr. Hollande and Ms. Merkel said they were in favour of moving toward a more integrated Europe. But three years into the sovereign-debt crisis, France, Germany, and the 15 other members of the euro zone are still struggling to agree on how to fix the flawed architecture of their monetary union. As they debate over the pace of future political integration, Mr. Hollande and Ms. Merkel are expected to spar over whether time has come to appoint a euro-zone budget Czar. German officials have called for giving the European Commission more powers to police national budget, and make sure profligate nations don't put the currency union at risk any more. France, fearing a loss of control over its national budget, has so far rejected that idea. Instead, Mr. Hollande wants to boost the status of the leader of the Eurogroup, the informal forum where the leaders and finance ministers of the countries that use the euro currency meet. While Ms. Merkel is calling for "more Europe" to provide a lasting response to the euro crisis, French officials have said Mr. Hollande would want to move more gradually, and link any transfer of sovereignty to specific, palpable gains in terms of new solidarity for Europeans.

A former French president said he supported such gradual, step-by-step approach. "Our countries are not ready to accept, at this point in time, a financial federalism that would be very constraining," Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who was president of France from 1974 to 1981, said in an interview on Sunday. "It's an error to go too far, because you risk ending up in failure." Ms. Merkel and Mr. Hollande are working out a new relationship on the European front.  Immediately after taking office in mid-May, Mr. Hollande challenged Ms. Merkel's main recipe of fiscal discipline to solve the debt crisis, saying euro-zone countries needed to help each other more. Without concessions by Germany, Mr. Hollande said France wouldn't ratify a European fiscal treaty that had been agreed upon by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, late last year. At a European Union summit late last month, euro-zone countries agreed in principles on ways to recapitalize Spanish banks and help Italy pay more affordable interest rates on its debt. Although EU finance ministers have yet to negotiate the fine points of these arrangements, Mr. Hollande has said he was satisfied with what was widely seen as a concession by Ms. Merkel, and that France would soon ratify the fiscal treaty. Sunday's commemorations were tarnished by reports that about 50 graves of German soldiers who died during WW I, had been desecrated the day before at a cemetery near Reims. "No obscure force, and even less stupidity which often underpins it, can hamper the profound momentum of Franco-German friendship," Mr. Hollande said in his speech.


France to present new Armenian genocide law in autumn

France is to present a new law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide in the autumn, the head of a group representing Armenians in France said on Monday. Franck Papazian, co-president of the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations of France (CCAF), told AFP he would meet with President Francois Hollande in the second half of this month to discuss the bill "which will be prepared by the government and proposed in the autumn."

Hollande on Saturday confirmed plans for a new law criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide. The historical question has long been a hot-button issue between Turkey and Armenia, a dispute that has also drawn in other countries and earlier this year sparked a diplomatic crisis between Paris and Ankara.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in 1915-16 genocide by Turkey's former Ottoman Empire. Turkey says 500,000 died and ascribes the toll to fighting and starvation during World War I. Hollande's conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy angered Ankara when he pushed ahead with a bill to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide. After the bill passed the National Assembly in December, Turkey retaliated by suspending military and political cooperation with Paris. But France's top constitutional court struck down the bill in February, saying it violated free expression, in a ruling welcomed by Ankara.

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