Jewish museum shooting suspect refuses extradition to Belgium

PARIS Wed Jun 4, 2014 11:44am EDT

A federal crime scene investigator is seen next to a police officer at the entrance the Jewish Museum in Brussels June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

A federal crime scene investigator is seen next to a police officer at the entrance the Jewish Museum in Brussels June 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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PARIS (Reuters) - The French national suspected of having shot three people dead in the Jewish Museum in Brussels last month refused on Wednesday to be extradited from France to Belgium, prosecutors and his lawyer said.

Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, who has been in police custody since his arrest on Friday in the southern city of Marseille, refused to leave France when presented with a European arrest warrant during a court hearing in Versailles outside Paris.

The suspect has another court appearance on Thursday. If he refuses extradition again, he can appeal the prosecutor's demand to a higher court, but this would likely only delay rather than block his transfer to Brussels, legal sources said.

Prosecutors say the repeat-offender, who they say spent most of 2013 fighting in Syria with Islamist rebels, is being held under anti-terror laws on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and possession of weapons in relation to the May 24 attack.

"We would like him to be judged under French jurisdiction," Nemmouche's lawyer, Apolin Pepiezep, told iTele. "Nothing today proves that Mehdi Nemmouche is the culprit."

The EU-wide system of arrest warrants, in effect since 2004, is designed to ensure faster and simpler extraditions. The European Commission says an extradition within EU member states takes on average 48 days if the suspect does not agree to it.

An Israeli couple and a French woman were killed in the attack in the Jewish Museum in the Belgian capital by a man who opened fire with a Kalashnikov.

When arrested at a Marseille bus terminal, Nemmouche was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, another gun and ammunition similar to that used in the shooting, prosecutors said. His lawyer said Nemmouche told police he had stolen them from a car in Brussels.

Nemmouche, who comes from Roubaix near the Belgian border, has already served five different sentences in French jails, where he became a radical Islamist, prosecutors have said.

(Writing and additional reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Mark John and Tom Heneghan)

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