"Ilan Halimi who was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Paris region on February 13, 2006. He died on the way to the hospital after being held captive for more than three weeks. A month after the start of the trial, Fofana admitted to having stabbed and set fire to Halimi, pouring flammable liquid over him and setting it alight."
PARIS (EJP) --- Youssouf Fofana, 28, leader of a gang called "The Barbarians", was sentenced to life in prison by a Paris court for the brutal murder Ilan Halimi, a 22-year-old man who was targeted because he was Jewish. Fofana's sentence means he will have no possibility of parole for 22 years.
Fofana, 28, was one of 27 people on trial in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi who was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Paris region on 13 February 2006.
He died on the way to the hospital after being held captive for more than three weeks.
As the verdict was announced, Fofana mimicked applause.
His main accomplices, Samir Ait Abdelmalek and Jean-Christophe Soumbou, were given sentences of 15 and 18 years, respectively. Another man who was a minor at the time also received a 15-year prison term, while Emma, a young girl used to attract Halimi, was sentenced to nine years in prison. The 22 others were convicted of a variety of crimes, including kidnapping by an organized group, sequestration that resulted in death, or failing to assist a person in danger. Those acting as jailers received 10 to 12 year terms. Two people, a man and a woman, were acquitted.
A lawyer for the Halimi family, Francis Szpiner, immediately called on France's justice minister to appeal the verdict because, he said, the sentences that went to the top lieutenant's of Fofana were too light and did not reflect the gravity of the crime. "I regret the court was particularly indulgent toward those who assisted and aided Youssouf Fofana," Szpiner said after the verdict was pronounced.
Overall, the sentences were slightly less than those sought by prosecutor Philippe Bilger. The verdicts came after three days of deliberation following a more than 2-month-long closed-door trial, by a juvenile court because some of the defendants were minors at the time of the crimes. The trial opened on April 29 and was closed to the public, and the jury had been deliberating for three days in a secret location.
Halimi's horrific death revived worries in France about lingering anti-Semitism and led to deep anxiety in France's Jewish community, the largest in western Europe.
Friday night, as the verdict was announced, scores of police, some in full riot gear, took up posts around the Palais de Justice in central Paris.
The case has attracted intense public scrutiny. While most of the trial took place behind closed doors because some of the accused were underage at the time of the crime, the courtroom was being opened for the verdict. Halimi's mother, Ruth, said that she believes the proceedings should have been open to the public.
A month after the start of the trial, Fofana admitted to having stabbed and set fire to Halimi, pouring flammable liquid over him and setting it alight.
Halimi's family lawyers say the young man was targeted because he was Jewish. Critics say French police initially ignored the possibility of anti-Semitic motives in the killing, which, as the case wore on, prompted fears of resurgent anti-Semitism in France.
Sammy Ghozlan, director of the National Bureau of Awareness against Anti-Semitism, said that authorities should do more to prevent the spread of racism and anti-Semitism in impoverished French suburbs, "where the hatred of Israel is triggering anti-Jewish action."
Fofana fled to Ivory Coast after the killing. He was arrested there and extradited to France.
Halimi's body was reburied in a cemetery in Jerusalem in 2007.
"I regret the court was particularly indulgent toward those who assisted and aided Youssouf Fofana," Francis Szpiner, a lawyer for the Halimi family, said after the verdict was pronounced.
Source article by Joseph Byron in EJP