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Pensioner jailed for attacking French mosque

AFP | Police outside a mosque in Le Mans, western France, after the building came under attack on January 7, 2015
3 min

A French court has sentenced a 69-year-old man to prison for throwing plaster grenades and shooting at a mosque in western France. The man said he had acted in anger over a deadly attack by Islamist gunmen on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

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The court on Wednesday sentenced Jacques Chaillou, a former psychiatric nurse with no criminal record, to three years in jail. He is expected to serve only the first year as the rest of his sentence is suspended.

Chaillou launched four plaster grenades and fired a rifle at the mosque in the city of Le Mans on the night of January 7, hours after two gunmen killed 12 people in a deadly rampage at Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices. There were no casualties in the mosque attack.

Chaillou, who has been detained since his arrest in mid-January, told investigators he "doubted" there would have been anyone at the mosque at the time of the attack.

On Tuesday he told the court "he was not proud" and described being upset by the death of the Charlie Hebdo journalists. The pensioner said he had been drinking and his action was "spontaneous".

"I am a Republican, an atheist, and what happened at Charlie Hebdo infuriated me. [The Charlie Hebdo attack] is a barrier to the independence of the press in our country," he said.

Spike in anti-Muslim acts

The prosecutor said Chaillou’s act had been committed "against a backdrop of racial prejudice and stigmatisation".

Attacks against mosques in France have sharply escalated since January’s terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Paris kosher store. A total of 176 Islamaphobic acts have been committed in January, more than in the whole of 2014, according to France’s Interior Ministry.

Mohamed Lamaachi, the imam of the mosque Chaillou attacked in Le Mans, said the Muslim community “condemned this Islamophobic act" but forgave the 69 year-old, since followers of Islam are “educated on forgiveness and respect”.

"If he comes to the mosque, he will be greeted with tea and couscous," Lamaachi said.

Chaillou’s lawyer Stephane Cornille said he would consult his client on whether to appeal the sentence.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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