Man behind fundraiser for policeman who shot Nahel blames teen’s family and justice system for death

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Euronews spoke to Jean Messiha, the man behind the controversial crowdfunding campaign in support of the police officer who shot Nahel dead last week.

The killing of 17-year-old Nahel by a police officer, which sparked destructive riots across France, should be blamed on his parent, the justice system and his own actions, the man behind the controversial crowdfunding campaign to support the officer’s family has told Euronews.

“(It’s) the responsibility of the parents, the responsibility of the justice system and, ultimately, the responsibility of this young man,” Jean Messiha told Euronews on Tuesday when asked who should be blamed for Nahel’s death.

“If you don’t obey the police, you’re putting your finger in a spiral which, once again, can lead to tragedy. In this case, Nahel committed suicide, nothing more, nothing less,” he said.

Nahel M., a young man of North African descent, died on June 26 after he was shot at point-blank range as he tried to evade a traffic check — driving licenses are only issued to people over the age of 18 in France. 

His killing has raised concerns about racism and the police in France and sparked week-long riots in the banlieues — poor suburbs — across the country that have led to hundreds of arrests and damages estimated at over €100 million.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Nahel’s death “inexplicable, inexcusable”. The officer, known as Florian M., has been detained and charged with voluntary manslaughter.  

‘A fund of shame’

Controversially, a crowdfunding campaign launched by Messiha, the president of the ‘Institut Vivre Francais’ who previously worked with far-right presidential candidates Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, to support the officer’s family has received four times more donations than the campaign to support Nahel’s family.

Messiha’s campaign had, at the time of writing, collected €1.4 million vs €350,000 for the campaign in support of Nahel’s family.

Messiha has announced the campaign will be closed down on Tuesday evening.

The kitty has been denounced by French left-wing politicians as shameful and GoFundMe, which hosts it, has been urged to close it.

“You’re hosting a fund of shame GoFundMe,” Olivier Faure, the leader of the Socialist Party, wrote on Twitter. “You’re perpetuating an already yawning rift by helping to support a police officer under investigation for culpable homicide. Close it!”

His Green counterpart, Yannick Jadot, also told French media that “this fund should be abolished, as it is frankly unworthy of what a family, Nahel’s family, is going through, unworthy of the anger in the neighbourhoods, sometimes towards police violence.”

Manon Aubry, a member of the European Parliament from the far-left La France Insoumise party, wrote on Twitter on Monday: “Nearly a million euros raised by a far-right polemicist in support of a policeman who kills a teenager.

“The message? It pays to kill a young Arab. And the government is turning a blind eye. This fund must be abolished as soon as possible!”

An MP from the ruling centrist Renaissance party, Eric Botherel, said Messiha “blows on the embers” and that his crowdfunding campaign, which he described as “indecent and scandalous” is also “a riot generator”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne conceded to reporters that “the fact that it was someone close to the far right who launched this fundraising campaign probably doesn’t help to appease people.”

She added, however, that “it’s not the government that can decide whether or not a kitty exists” and that “it’s up to the courts to rule on the matter.”

Police officer’s family facing ‘wall of debt’

Asked by Euronews whether he would have launched a campaign to support Nahel’s family if one hadn’t already been organised, Messiha said no, arguing that Nahel, was a “multi-recidivist offender” and that his clean police record was down to “lax justice”.

He justified his campaign by saying that Florian M.’s family is “in enormous difficulty because the officer is now in prison, his wages have been suspended and he has legal fees to pay”.

He also said that the family has been targeted by rioters after their address was leaked and that they also “have hotel expenses”.

“So you know, things add up very quickly and they can, the policeman’s family, can quickly find themselves up against a wall of debt. So, without prejudging the investigation, we have decided to support the family.

Pascal Nache, the prosecutor of Nanterre in charge of the investigation, said last week that “the legal conditions for using the weapon” against Nahel were “not met”.

But Messiha said that the investigation has only just started and things could be “subsequently reclassified”. He also accused French prosecutors of being “politicised” and Macron and his government of having “abandoned” the officer “from the start and without prejudice to any investigative elements in his possession.”

Macron and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Monday evening met with police officers, gendarmes and firefighters. The Elysée said the visit was to allow them to “listen to them, thank them for their mobilisation over the last few days and assure them of his support”.

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