Cherif Kouachi one of the brothers being hunted down in connection with the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris was once termed as the "reluctant jihadi." This deadly killer stood trial in the year 2008 when he was caught attempting to join the Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
A former pizza delivery man, the 34 year old Cherif's testimony is a telling tale of the transformation of a man from a reluctant jihadi to a cold blooded highly radicalized killer.
The trial of 2008
Cherif was sentenced to 18 months prison after he was found guilty of making an attempt to join the Al-Qaeda in Yemen. His trial was watched closely watched by one and all and at no point in time did anyone suspect that he would turn more lethal after his release.
As he stood trial he explained to the court that he had attended a class by a preacher who taught him all about Jihad. The first thing that I was told that it is good to die a martyr. This was etched within me and that is why I decided to battle for my religion he had told the court.
Further at the trial, he also mentioned that during his class he was repeatedly told that it was good to die a martyr and also he was made to learn the benefits of a Fidayeen attack (suicide attack).
Trained in 2007
It was found that at the time of him leaning towards the cause of the Al-Qaeda in Yemen, he was told to join a set of youth in Paris. The training was very minimal and became a pre-requisite for us joining the group he said.
The programme involved just a basic level of fitness training. We were told to jog around the park. Even the training relating to firing the Kalashnikov was minimal he said. However we were not even provided an actual weapon to train. We were shown the sketches of the weapon and told about its operation.
Relieved to be detained
At the time of his trial he even went to the extent that he was relieved to have been detained by the French authorities. His advocate while pleading the court to let him off lightly described the journey Cheriff was about to make as one of falling into wrong company.
The court however took a leaner approach to the case and sentenced him to 18 months in jail. The imprisonment was more reformative in nature and the legal system of France expected him to change.
He never changed
Despite making a plea to be let off lightly before the court and the legal system of France giving him a chance, it appears that Cheriff never changed. In jail he turned worse according to his fellow inmates.
He was described as being aloof and became more fanatic in jail.
According to a French documentary, ‘Evidence for the Prosecution' Cheriff was a lanky man who enjoyed the company of women. He had short hair and sported a funky watch and preferred spending time with girls rather than at a Mosque. However once imprisoned he turned from bad to worse.
Nabbed in 2010
After his release he was nabbed in the year 2010 on charges of trying to free a militant who was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of the Paris train bombing of 1995. At that time Cheriff was working in a super market and it appeared that he had reformed.
After his arrest in 2010, he was released almost immediately as the police were not able to prove the charges against him.