Jews demand retrial in 'Barbarians' murder case
French Jewish groups demanded a retrial of a Paris gang called the "Barbarians" who tortured a Jewish youth to death.Paris – French Jewish groups Sunday demanded a retrial for members of a Paris gang called the "Barbarians" who tortured a Jewish youth to death, charging that key murder accomplices were let off too lightly.
A Paris court on Friday sentenced gang leader Youssouf Fofana to life in prison with a mandatory 22 years for the anti-Semitic kidnapping and murder of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi, which shocked France for its brutality in 2006.
But the lower sentences handed to 26 accomplices, including nine years for the young woman who lured Halimi into the gang's trap, and 15 and 18 years for two men cast as his "jailers", drew an angry response from Jewish groups.
France's National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA) demanded a retrial, calling for a demonstration Monday evening outside the offices of Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.
"We are asking the justice minister to use her authority to ask the state prosecutor to appeal this unbearable verdict," the BNCVA said in a statement, denouncing the court ruling as "lenient" and "incomplete".
Halimi's family had already called for a retrial at the close of the two-and-a-half-month trial, which was held under a media blackout because two defendants were minors at the time of the killing.
"Ilan's executioners did a terrible thing and my feeling is that the punishment does not reflect that," the victim's mother Ruth Halimi told Le Parisien news website on Sunday. "They killed Ilan because he was a Jew."
"Anti-Semitism is no ordinary crime," she insisted, calling for Fofana's chief accomplices to be given "exemplary" sentences.
The verdict was handed down by nine judges and a nine-member jury following more than two days of deliberations.
The Paris state prosecutor's office is expected to say by 20 July whether it will order a new trial.
Halimi's kidnap and murder stirred debate on anti-Semitism in France after police initially refused to consider it a hate crime, with tens of thousands taking to the street to demand justice.
The young man was lured by the 17-year-old girl from the Paris mobile phone store where he worked to a housing estate basement in the suburbs, where he was attacked and subdued with ether.
Held prisoner for ransom, he was subjected to torture for 24 days before he was found naked and handcuffed to a tree near a railway track on February 13, 2006. He died on the way to hospital.
Fofana, who recruited followers among youths from Paris's bleak immigrant suburbs, was accused of having stabbed Halimi and doused his body with rubbing alcohol before setting him alight.
The 28-year-old son of Ivorian immigrants, Fofana raised his fist in court at the start of the trial and proclaimed "Allah will conquer!," stating his name as "African Barbarian Armed Revolt Salafist".
The sentences against his accomplices -- from six months suspended to 18 years -- were mostly lower than sought by the prosecution.
State prosecutor Philippe Bilger praised the final verdict as "balanced", saying it reflected the gravity of the crime but also each person's true level of involvement.
Dominique Attias, the lawyer for the 17-year-old girl who lured Halimi to what proved to be his death, accepted the verdict.
"Nine years in jail for a young girl who found herself caught up in an affair without ever for a second imagining its fatal ending, is balanced justice," she said.
But the French Jewish student union, the UEJF, said it was "shocked" by the sentences, and that the media blackout -- standard in French cases involving minors -- had prevented a proper public debate.
"Everything was done to avoid drawing the lessons from this anti-Semitic murder case," it charged in a statement.
The French Council of Jewish Institutions, the CRIF, also said it was unhappy with the verdict, and would favour a new trial, held this time in full public view.
"The CRIF is worried, as is the Jewish community of France," it said.
AFP / Expatica