21/03/2012 11:12 GMT

Mohammed Merah's Lawyer Describes Toulouse Suspect As 'Polite And Sweet'

The lawyer for Mohammed Merah, the man suspected of killing seven people during a series of shooting sprees in southern France, has spoken of his shock that his client could be involved.

Christian Etelin, who has been defending Merah for eight years, revealed in an interview with BFM TV that his client had always been "polite and sweet", and only ever convicted of petty crimes.

According to the lawyer, the last time Merah had been convicted was on 24 February for an “old story” in which he drove without a valid licence. Merah had been convicted to jail for one month.

Etelin told BFM TV he could have never suspected Merah to commit such “radicalisation, harshness, and absolute terror.”

He described the suspect as a “polite and courteous” young man, who today finds himself “in total contradiction with what was expected from him.”

“I always saw him as an individual with a supple behaviour, sweet, polished, and never rigid to the point of appealing to a certain fanaticism.”

The young man never referred to any Islamic comments in his presence. “But I learnt that two years ago he suddenly radicalised and left for Afghanistan," he said.

“He changed in his mind, in his personal convictions, but he remained very discreet about it. I didn’t have the impression to have to deal with a radically different person that the one I had known previously.”

“I told him that, considering his whereabouts he was probably watched over, and that he was better off staying away from committing any offenses.”

The lawyer has not been in contact with the suspect since February and was not aware of his premeditated attacks.

“I wish I could communicate with him to see what happened.”

“I have his mobile phone number but I think that given the situation he might not pick up.”

When asked by the journalists what he would recommend Mohammed Merah to do right now, the lawyer answered:

“Of course, I am asking him to surrender. He is either going to die or he is going to commit suicide.”

The lawyer did not confirm the suspect had any suicidal tendencies, but he did confess that “his fragile personality makes me fear an unpredictable behaviour.”