Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 6 News List

French woman who faked hate attack convicted

AP , PONTOISE, FRANCE

A young woman who admitted to lying about being the victim of an anti-Semitic attack was convicted on Monday for fabricating a story that stunned France.

Marie Leblanc, 22, was handed a four-month suspended sentence, ordered to receive counseling and put under probation for two years at the hearing north of Paris.

Defense lawyers and her mother have described the woman as psychologically fragile and deeply sorry for her lie, which created an uproar as the French government is trying to combat a rise in anti-Semitic and other hate crimes.

The woman claimed she was robbed on a suburban Paris train earlier this month by a knife-wielding gang that mistook her for a Jew and scrawled swastikas on her body.

President Jacques Chirac reacted immediately, calling the alleged attack a "shameful act."

Explaining herself to journalists, Leblanc said she made up the story to get attention from her parents and her boyfriend.

"I wanted people to take care of me," she told the court. "I was conscious that I had told a lie but I didn't think it would get so much media attention."

Doubts were raised when police found no clues or witnesses. After learning the woman had a history of lying and filing complaints about assaults that were never proved, police detained the woman for questioning.

The woman subsequently went on national TV to issue a public apology.

"I offer my apologies to the president ... and people who demonstrated their support for my lie," she said on France-3 TV last weekend, with her back to the camera. "I regret this act and I ask for forgiveness to those I deceived and hurt."

The court also ordered Leblanc to pay a symbolic fine of one euro (US$1) to France's national train operator, the SNCF.

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