Sun, Jul 12, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Life sentence for leader of gang that killed Jewish man

REUTERS , PARIS

The leader of a group that called itself a “gang of barbarians” was sentenced to life imprisonment by a French court on Friday for kidnapping and torturing a young Jewish man for more than three weeks before leaving him to die.

The gang abducted 23-year-old Ilan Halimi in 2006, unsuccessfully tried to extort a ransom for their captive, tortured him until he was close to death and then left him near a train station. He died shortly after he was found.

The case shocked France and turned a spotlight on anti-Semitic violence in the poor, multi-ethnic suburbs around many big French cities.

Amid high courtroom security, Youssouf Fofana, the gang’s leader, who admitted to killing Halimi, was sentenced to life imprisonment, the maximum penalty under French law, with a minimum period in jail of 22 years.

Twenty-four other gang members were handed sentences ranging from six months suspended to 18 years in prison. Two were acquitted.

Aside from the horrific details of the murder itself, the case attracted wide attention because of what it seemed to suggest about racial tensions and anti-Semitism in France.

Many in the Jewish community say that anti-Semitic aggression among French youths of Arab and African origin has been on the rise in recent years, exacerbated by anger over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to several members of the gang, Halimi was targeted because he was Jewish and was therefore believed to have money.

Fofana, a 28-year-old of Ivoirian origin, expressed no remorse and expressed defiance throughout the trial.

On various occasions, he smirked at Hamili’s relatives, shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest!) and at one point threw shoes at lawyers.

He gave his date of birth as Feb. 13, 2006, in Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois, the date and place of Halimi’s death, and bombarded the magistrates probing the case with letters full of anti-Semitic insults.

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