French prosecutors file charges against 13 Islamist radicals

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Preliminary charges are being filed against 13 Islamist radicals in France.

Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference that members of the Forsane Alizza (“Knights of Pride”) allegedly planned to kidnap a judge – who sources say is Jewish – and received physical training in parks and forests around Paris.

The group preached hate and violence on its internet site which “called for an Islamic caliphate in France, the application of the shariah and incited Muslims to unite to prepare for civil war,” he said yesterday.

The site, which also showed clips of late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was shut down after authorities banned Forsane Alizza in March.

The charges come amid a crackdown on Islamist extremists following the March killing spree in southern France by a 23-year-old claiming links to al-Qaeda. The suspected gunman, Mohamed Merah, was killed after a stand-off with police.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday there is now “zero tolerance” for hate speech and ideologies which don’t conform with the country’s values.

“You will see that in the weeks to come we will continue this absolutely systematic work of assuring the protection of the French by not tolerating such activities,” he said of the Forsane Alizza group.

The 13 – among 17 suspects detained in police raids last week – faced preliminary charges of criminal association linked to a terrorist network, a charge with a maximum ten-year prison term. Nine of the 13 are being jailed, the other four must report regularly to police. The remaining four were being released.

The prosecutor said several terrorism plans appeared to be in the works, including the kidnapping of a judge in Lyon. An official close to the investigation said the targeted judge is Jewish.

Other potential targets included people from groups that have spoken out against the Muslim community, the prosecutor said.