Attack on French Jewish cemetery condemned

2nd April 2007, Comments 0 comments

LILLE, France, April 1, 2007 (AFP) - French police on Sunday launched an investigation into the desecration of some 50 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in the northern city of Lille, as President Jacques Chirac led the political condemnation.

LILLE, France, April 1, 2007 (AFP) - French police on Sunday launched an investigation into the desecration of some 50 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in the northern city of Lille, as President Jacques Chirac led the political condemnation.

No graffiti was left on the 51 tombstones in the attack overnight Saturday to Sunday but "many were knocked down, some broken," said Lille prosecutor Philippe Lemaire.

In a message to the president of the Jewish community in Lille, Chirac said he condemned "this unspeakable and intolerable act" and expressed his sympathy to the families affected.

"I have asked the government to do everything possible to find the perpetrators of this infamy so that they are severely punished," said Chirac.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also called on the interior and justice ministries to do everything they could to ensure that those responsible were rapidly identified, judged and convicted.

He condemned the "cowardly and dishonourable" vandalism and expressed his solidarity with the Jewish community.

Segolene Royal, the socialist candidate for the presidency, attacked what she called an "ignoble" act, while the communist candidate Marie-George Buffet expressed her anger and indignation at what she called an "odious" act.

The mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, described the attack as a "hateful anti-Semitic act" while Lemaire said that there had never been vandalism on such a scale in the region.

Interior Minister Francois Baroin pledged to mobilise "all means necessary to quickly find the perpetrators of these intolerable acts."

On Sunday, many Jewish families had gathered at the Lille-Sud cemetery to assess the damage, visible along a long row of tombstones that were attacked on the eve of the Passover holiday.

Franck Hanoh stood near the damaged tombstone of his great-uncle and said he was "terror-stricken and saddened. When you look at this, it's just indescribable."

The prosecutor warned that the perpetrators could face between three to five years in prison while some 40 police investigators were put on the case, many of whom could be seen carrying out forensic work at the cemetery on Sunday.

The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) said the desecration was "a hateful act" carried out "on the eve of Pesach, Jewish Passover."

It called on authorities "to deploy all the necessary means to arrest the perpetrators of this profanity" and to set an example by condemning them to harsh prison terms.

The CRIF in February said in its annual report that anti-Semitic attacks had risen by 45 percent in France between 2005 and 2006.

The overall number of anti-Semitic acts -- both physical violence and vandalism -- rose 40 percent from 134 to 213, while anti-Semitic insults rose 71 percent, from 48 to 82.

According to the CRIF, anti-Semitic acts have been on the rise in France since 2000, the year of the second Palestinian uprising, which is supported by many in France's Muslim community. The incidents have tended to rise and fall in line with developments in the Middle East since then.

France has one of the biggest Jewish communities in the world, estimated at up to 600,000 people.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article