April 30, 2009

Gang of 'barbarians' accused of torturing Jew to death

A SELF-PROCLAIMED Muslim barbarian shouted his contempt for his judges yesterday at the start of a racially-charged trial in Paris. He is accused, with 26 others, of torturing and murdering a young Jewish man.

Youssouf Fofana (28) -- who led a gang of youths from an immigrant housing estate -- swaggered into court and shouted "Allah will conquer" as the court began hearing a case that horrified France in 2006.

Mr Fofana and most of his alleged accomplices have admitted their roles in the kidnapping of Ilan Halimi (23), an assistant in a Paris telephone shop, who was held for ransom for 24 days.

Fofana -- whose parents came to France from Ivory Coast -- denies killing the victim, who was tied up in a cellar and tortured with acid, cigarettes and knives. He died in an ambulance after Mr Fofana dumped him by a railway line and allegedly set him alight.

The crime symbolised the violent anti-Semitic culture among many youths on the immigrant estates. It shocked France because many residents, including parents of gang members, were alleged to have been aware that Mr Halimi was being held. Some allegedly took turns in guarding the captive for a few euro.


Half the defendants, mainly teenagers at the time, face charges of failing to render assistance or alert police.

The trial proceeded in camera because two of the accused were minors in 2006, including Emma (19), of Iranian background, who is alleged to have lured Mr Halimi to his doom by visiting his shop and inviting him on a date.

Ruth Halimi, the victim's mother, accused the police of bungling the inquiry. She attacked the government -- including Nicolas Sarkozy, then the Interior Minister -- for playing down its anti-Semitic aspect.

After thousands demonstrated, Mr Sarkozy promised Jewish leaders that everything would be done to bring all those involved to justice.

Mr Fofana faces life imprisonment if convicted of kidnapping, torture and murder, aggravated by anti-Semitic motives, a specific charge in French law.

Mrs Halimi sat praying in court as Mr Fofana, bearded and in a white tracksuit, grinned at her and jokingly told the judges that his name was "Arabs African revolt barbarian Salafist army". Salafism is a fundamentalist movement espoused by many young immigrant radicals.


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