Ahmed Merabet, the police officer gunned down in the Charlie Hebdo attack, was killed in an act of barbarity by “false Muslims” his brother said in a moving tribute on Saturday, where he also appealed for unity and tolerance.
Speaking for a group of relatives gathered in Paris, Malek Merabet said the terrorists who ignored his brother’s plea for mercy as he lay wounded on the street may have shared his Algerian roots, but had nothing else in common.
“My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims,” he said. “Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the police and of defending the values of the Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity.”
Malek reminded France that the country faced a battle against extremism, not against its Muslim citizens. “I address myself now to all the racists, Islamophobes and antisemites. One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Mad people have neither colour or religion,” he said.
“I want to make another point: don’t tar everybody with the same brush, don’t burn mosques – or synagogues. You are attacking people. It won’t bring our dead back and it won’t appease the families.”
His brief speech was a moving tribute to the slain officer, loved as a son, brother, companion and uncle, but also a powerful call for harmony.
Ahmed Merabet’s death was captured in a graphic video, as he was wounded by one of the two attackers and then shot in cold blood. Photograph: Twitter
There has been a rising tide of Islamophobia in France following the Paris killings, including a grenade attack on one mosque, an explosion in a kebab shop beside a mosque and gunfire at a Muslim family in a car, although there have been no casualties.
Merabet’s death was captured in a graphic video, as he was wounded by one of the two attackers and then shot in the head in cold blood. He is shot in the groin, then falls to the pavement groaning in pain and holding up an arm as though to protect himself.
The second gunman moves forward and asks the policeman: “Do you want to kill us?” Merabet replies: “No, it’s OK mate,” but the terrorist then shoots him in the head.
The images were widely shared online and one was published on the front page of a national newspaper.
Malek berated media outlets and websites that showed the graphic content, which he said was extremely painful for the family. “How dare you take this video and broadcast it? I heard his voice, I recognised him, I saw him being killed and I continue to hear him every day.”
Ahmed’s partner, Morgane Ahmad, who said she had watched footage of the shooting without realising it was him, also appealed for calm.
“What the family and I want is for everyone to be united, we want everyone to be able to demonstrate in peace, we want to show respect for all the victims and that the demonstration should be peaceful,” she said.
Ahmed had been a pillar of the family since his father died 20 years earlier, Malek said. The 42-year-old grew up in Livry-Gargan, in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris, and graduated from the local lycée in 1995. He ran a cleaning company before joining the police force eight years ago, and worked hard for a promotion.
“Through his determination, he had just got his judicial police officer [detective] diploma and was shortly due to leave fieldwork. His colleagues describe him as a man of action who was passionate about his job,” Malek said.
Merabet was called to the scene of the attack while on a bicycle patrol and arrived just as the killers were making their escape. They stopped to add him to the long list of victims.
“He was on foot, and came nose to nose with the terrorists. He pulled out his weapon. It was his job, it was his duty,” said Rocco Contento, a colleague who was a union representative at the central police station for Paris’s 11th arrondissement, where Merabet was based. He described him as a quiet and conscientious officer who was always smiling and widely liked.
As news spread that the gunned down policeman was a Muslim, the hashtag #JeSuisAhmed began spreading on Twitter in solidarity. One user, identified as @Aboujahjah, said: “I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so.”