- Arrest - counter-terrorism - France - Islamism - justice
Detained Islamists placed under formal investigation
French prosecutors said Tuesday that a formal investigation has been opened into the suspected terrorist activities of 13 Islamists detained last week. Under French law, a formal inquiry precedes the filing of criminal charges.
AFP - Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Tuesday he would seek terror charges against 13 of the 19 alleged Islamic militants arrested on Friday, some of whom are accused of plotting kidnappings.
Top prosecutor Molins alleged that some of those arrested had been planning to abduct an investigating magistrate but that they had not begun to carry out their plan. Three of those arrested have already been freed without charge.
The Islamists, some of whom are members of a suspected extremist group called Forsane Alizza that was banned last month, are accused of "being part of a criminal gang connected to a terrorist enterprise," Molins said.
Around 10 weapons were seized during the arrests, he added.
The prosecutor will ask for nine of the suspects to be detained and four freed on bail, he said, adding that the kidnapping plan had been mentioned during a meeting in Lyon in September.
The decision to arrest the suspects was taken "as various elements became connected", Molins said, including their physical training and calls for jihad.
"All of that incited the instructing magistrates not to take risks, there's enough elements to go find them," he said.
"All indications confirm the leading and coordinating role of the 'emir'" of Forsane Alizza, Mohamed Achamlane, who was transferred to Paris on Monday, Molins said.
The head of France's Central Directorate for Domestic Intelligence, Bernard Squarcini, said on Saturday those arrested were involved in "war-like training, linked to violent religious indoctrination" and paintball games.
The alleged militants were netted in anti-terrorist swoops in different French cities a week after self-confessed Al-Qaeda militant Mohamed Merah was shot dead following his killing spree in which he murdered seven people.
The French opposition has criticised the presence of television news cameras during the arrests as the images could be seen to bolster the chances of right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy's re-election later this month.
France on Monday announced the expulsion of five radical Islamic preachers -- an Algerian, a Malian, a Saudi, a Turk and a Tunisian -- as part of a crackdown in the wake of the Merah killings.