France jails group chief after raids uncover Jewish targets

Mr Berenger Tourne, French lawyer of Mohamed Achamlane, head of Islamist group Forsane Alizza, speaks to the medias on June 8, 2015.
Mr Berenger Tourne, French lawyer of Mohamed Achamlane, head of Islamist group Forsane Alizza, speaks to the medias on June 8, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (Reuters) - The leader of a banned French group was sentenced to nine years in jail on Friday on terrorism charges after police raids found weapons and a list of Jewish targets in his personal files.

The Paris court handed down the sentence to Mohamed Achamlane, one of 14 people tried on charges of "criminal conspiracy related to a terrorist enterprise".

The trial followed raids on the homes of members of a group called Forsane Alizza (Horsemen of Pride in Arabic), which was banned in 2012. Police found weapons in the raids as well as a file belonging to Achamlane that included a list of targets including the Hyper Cacher chain of Jewish stores.

The ruling comes six months after Islamist militants killed 17 people in attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Jewish shop, prompting France to boost troops guarding sensitive spots such as synagogues and train stations, but was not linked to those attacks.

The group was created in 2010 with the official goal of stopping the spread of Islamophobia but it was banned by the government in March 2012 after militant propaganda appeared on its website.

Achamlane, 37, who has previous convictions for offences related to weapons and violence, denied any plans to carry out attacks and said the group's aim was simply to "unite young Muslims".

France has remained on the top security alert since the Jan 7-9 killings at Charlie Hebdo and the foodstore.

The other 13 were handed sentences ranging from a suspended one year term to six years in jail.