French 'jihadist recruiter' appears in Paris court
French-Moroccan Mourad Fares has appeared in court in France following his arrest at an Istanbul airport last month.

An alleged jihadist recruiter has appeared before a judge in France following his arrest in Turkey.

Mourad Fares, a 29-year-old French-Moroccan, had been wanted by the authorities in France when he was recognized on a visit to the French consulate in Istanbul last month.

He was returned to France on Wednesday evening and appeared before a Paris judge on Thursday over claims of conspiring with a terrorist organization.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Fares, from the Haute-Savoie region of south-eastern France, was arrested on August 16 but his detention was not announced until his return to France was completed.

French domestic intelligence service, the DGSI, considers Fares a vital recruiter of French nationals for jihadist groups fighting in Syria, where militant groups such as the Islamic State have been fighting each other and government forces.

He was identified at the consulate when he went to apply for a consular pass. The French authorities asked Turkish police to intercept him at an Istanbul airport.

Fares is believed to have recruited a chain of French fighters to Syria. In December 2013 he allegedly took a group of teenagers from Strasbourg and Toulouse, including two aged 15 and 16, to the war-torn country. They returned to France after eight days.

Cazeneuve said Fares has links to the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Speaking on France Info radio station, Fares’s brother Mohamed said his brother was not the "big fish that the French authorities and French media are trying to show… he is not a terrorist, he just left to fight the Syrian regime forces.”

Referring to the Frenchman accused of killing four in an attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum, he added: "Mourad is not another Mehdi Nemmouche."

According to French radio station RTL, police are trying to establish when and how Fares left Syria and if he was attempting to smuggle himself back into France.

Another theory is that, knowing he was wanted by Interpol, he chose to be arrested to escape fellow jihadists in Syria.

To prevent French nationals joining extremist groups in Syria, the Interior Ministry launched a telephone hotline in April for families to alert the authorities to "signs of Islamic radicalism.”

According to French lawmaker Sebastien Pietrasanta, 343 French nationals are fighting in Syria. At least 33 are believed to have died in combat.

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Last Modified: 2014-09-12 09:33:28
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