French court hands suspended jail sentence to 'White Emir'

Olivier Corel, 69, nicknamed the "White Emir", is not believed to have any link to the attacks in Paris.
Olivier Corel, 69, nicknamed the "White Emir", is not believed to have any link to the attacks in Paris. PHOTO: AFP

TOULOUSE (Reuters) - A French court handed a six-month suspended jail sentence on Wednesday (Nov 25) to a man suspected of mentoring young extremists for his possession of a hunting rifle, in a case that demonstrates heightened security concerns after Nov 13 attacks in Paris.

Olivier Corel, 69, nicknamed the "White Emir", is not believed to have any link to the attacks in Paris in which militant Islamists killed 130 people and injured hundreds more, but is known to have mentored at least two suspected militants.

French anti-terrorist police detained Corel on Tuesday at his home in Arigat in the Pyrenees mountains of south-western France, one of dozens of security operations targeting Islamists under a state of emergency declared after the Paris attacks.

The state of emergency made possible the lightning speed of Corel's trial and conviction, which centred on his failure to register a hunting rifle following a change in the law two years ago - normally a minor administrative offence.

Under the terms of his sentence Corel faces an automatic six-month jail sentence if he does anything wrong in the next two years. He must also seek the permission of a judge to travel outside France during the next six months.

Corel, a French national of Syrian origin, belongs to the Salafist movement, which espouses an ultra-conservative version of Sunni Islam.

He is believed to have mentored Mohammad Merah, who killed seven people in 2012, many at a Jewish school in Toulouse, and Fabien Clain, whose voice was identified on an audio tape in which Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris on Nov 13.

Corel was arrested but later released at the time of the Merah attacks, a source close the case has said.

Dozens of people have been arrested and homes searched by police since the Paris attacks, most of them as part of a broad sweep that is not specifically targeting people thought to have played a direct role in the attacks.