PARIS - A French court on Friday jailed the leader of a local Islamist group for nine years for “criminal association with a terrorist group.”

Mohamed Achamlane, 37, the leader of Forsane Alizza, also called the “knights of pride”, was one of 15 members of the group on trial for plotting terrorist attacks.

The accused were arrested in 2012 during a crackdown on radical Islamists shortly after gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead seven people, including three Jewish children.

Achamlane insisted throughout the trial that the group, formed in 2010, had no “terrorist inspiration” and only wanted to defend Muslims against mounting Islamophobia in France.

Asked during the trial about internet chats where he said he wanted to “slash France” he said many people used his computer.

As for files explaining how to build explosives, “all sorts of people sent me all sorts of files”, he told the court during his June trial.

Achamlane also said that he was only calling for the “legitimate defence” of his community, adding “I am not racist, I am not an anti-Semite.”

But prosecutors put forward evidence including a list of “targets” that highlighted Jewish shops in the Paris region.

“We wanted to make a provocative video with a wall of Kalashnikovs and my bearded head to redress the balance,” he said, specifying that he felt Muslims were “excluded” from French society.

“There is no radical or moderate Islam,” he added. “There is only authentic Islam.”

The group - which gained attention for its protests against a decision to ban veils in public - was disbanded in 2012 by the government, which described it as a “private militia”.

After it was disbanded, the group put a message on its website demanding that French forces leave all Muslim-majority countries.

“If our demands are ignored, we will consider the government to be at war against Muslims,” the message said.