Life sentence in anti-Semitic murder case that shocked France
A French court sentenced the leader of a Paris gang called "The Barbarians" to life in prison on Friday for an anti-Semitic murder that shocked France with its brutality.
Paris--With the verdict, the court followed the request of prosecutors who had called for the maximum sentence for Youssouf Fofana. He was the only one charged with murder and admitted in court to the kidnap, torture and murder of a young Jewish man in 2006.
Fofana's life sentence comes with a mandatory 22 years to serve.
The killing of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi stirred debate on anti-Semitism in France after police at the outset refused to consider the kidnapping as a hate crime.
Two of Fofana's closest accomplices in the crime were sentenced to 15 and 18 years in prison respectively, and a young woman who lured the victim to his doom was sent to prison for nine years.
Two of the 26 accomplices of Fofana were acquitted and the minimum sentence was six months suspended.
Halimi was abducted and 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, the 28-year-old son of Ivorian immigrants, had raised his fist as he turned up in court at the start of the trial and proclaimed "Allah will conquer!"
Asked to state his name, he answered "African Barbarian Armed Revolt Salafist."
A nine-person jury was chosen before the judge imposed a media blackout as is the case for all hearings in French juvenile courts. The trial was heard by the special tribunal because two of the defendants were minors at the time of the crime.
Halimi, a clerk in a Paris mobile phone store, went missing on 20 January 2006 while on a date with a girl he had met at his workplace.
The girl, who was 17 at the time of the crime, turned out to be one of Fofana's accomplices, instructed to lure Halimi to the basement of a building in a Paris suburb where he was attacked and subdued with ether.
Prosecutors believe the gang had used women to target nine other men in the kidnapping scheme but that these attempts failed.
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 victim's mother has accused police of mishandling the investigation after officers at first said they believed anti-Semitism was not a factor.
Halimi's murder came a few months after France's high-immigrant suburbs exploded into rioting in late 2005 and the case quickly took on political overtones.
Tens of thousands of people took to the street to protest against anti-Semitism some two weeks after Halimi's body was found.
Then president Jacques Chirac spoke to Halimi's parents and personally assured them that full light would be shed and those responsible brought to justice.