Chirac vows tough fatefor Jewish graves vandals

10th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

LYON, France, Aug 10 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday pledged to punish vandals who desecrated 60 graves at a Jewish cemetery in Lyon, as his centre-right government struggles to curb rising anti-Semitism.

LYON, France, Aug 10 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday pledged to punish vandals who desecrated 60 graves at a Jewish cemetery in Lyon, as his centre-right government struggles to curb rising anti-Semitism.  

"Let the profaners make no mistake: France vigorously and indignantly condemns these dishonourable acts," Chirac wrote in a letter to local Jewish community leader Marcel Dreyfus after Monday's incident.  

"The country will not tolerate a spread of such acts on its territory," the French leader warned.  

Vandals daubed swastikas, Celtic crosses and references to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in black paint late Monday on some 60 tombstones in the Lyon cemetery, as well as on a monument to Jews killed during World War II.  

Two men were detained for questioning about the incident, the latest in a string of similar attacks on Jewish cemeteries in France.  

"At the moment when we are preparing to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the allied landings in Provence and the victory over Nazi barbarity, this sordid, cowardly act is an insult to the memory of all the resistance fighters from Lyon and from France, to the memory of the Jewish community," Chirac said.  

"We are actively looking for the perpetrators of this ignominious act. They will be punished to the full extent of the law," the president added.  

Justice Minister Dominique Perben, on holiday in the area near Lyon in southeast France, was due to visit the cemetery later Tuesday.  

Police first noticed the two men, who were not identified, when they entered the cemetery before the desecrated graves had been discovered. They were later detained after the cemetery watchman reported the act of vandalism.  

The men did not have any paint with them upon their arrest, state prosecutor Xavier Richaud told AFP.   Dreyfus told AFP that he had received a phone call from Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin hours after the crime, who described the anti-Semitic attack as "odious" and "unacceptable".  

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin joined the chorus of condemnations, expressing his "solidarity with the Jewish community" and pledging that the perpetrators of what he called a "disgusting act" would be brought to justice.  

Lyon's chief rabbi Richard Wertenschlag said that "the memory of the Jewish community has been offended" by the desecration.  

Last month, Chirac called for perpetrators of anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic acts to face tough punishment, and excluded racist crimes from his annual July 14 clemency for prisoners.  

The number of racist and anti-Semitic acts committed in France soared in the first half of 2004, according to interior ministry statistics, with 135 physical acts carried out against Jews and 95 against other ethnic groups.  

France is home to Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, estimated at 600,000 and five million respectively. Some 35,000 Jews live in Lyon, making it the third-largest Jewish community in the country.  

Many of the attacks against Jewish cemeteries have occurred in the eastern Alsace region near the border with Germany. Vandals have also desecrated graves in Christian and Muslim cemeteries across France in recent weeks.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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