Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Appeal Granted In Trial Of The Murderers of Ilan Halimi

It started in February 2006 when the news was first reported:
Criminals who tortured and killed a young hostage, keeping him naked and hooded and burning him repeatedly before throwing him from a train, were inspired by images from Iraq, according to a French prosecutor.
Even then, you had the sense that the media wanted to minimize what had happened and its implications:
o The victim's name (Ilan Halimi) was withheld.
o The fact that the victim was Jewish was not mentioned.
o The fact that the missing gangleader is Moslem was omitted.
o The possibility that when a Moslem kills a Jew there may be anti-Semitism was ignored.
Haaretz reported at the time:
"We think there is anti-Semitism in this affair," Rafi Halimi, Ilan's uncle, told the press.

"First, because the killers tried to kidnap at least two other Jews, and second, because of what they said on the phone," Rafi Halimi added. "When we said we didn't have 500,000 euros to give them they told us to go to the synagogue and get it," Rafi said. "They also recited verses from the Koran."

But the Paris public prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, told Parisian Jewish radio on Thursday that "no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action." The umbrella group of French Jewish secular organizations, CRIF, issued a statement Friday calling on the Jewish community "to keep calm, cautious and wait for developments in the investigation."
Eventually, the nature of the murder was admitted.

In April, all those involved were put on trial--behind closed doors, and on July 10 the verdict was announced:
A Paris court on Friday convicted a gang leader of the brutal 2006 killing of a young man prosecutors said was targeted because he was Jewish.

Youssouf Fofana, 28, was sentenced to life in prison. He was one of 27 people on trial in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi, who was 23 years old.

Halimi was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris on Feb. 13, 2006. He died on the way to the hospital after being held captive for more than three weeks. The 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.

As the verdict was announced, Fofana, who headed the self-styled "gang of barbarians," mimicked applause. Fofana's sentence means he will have no possibility of parole for 22 years.

His two 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.

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.

Last week, it was announced that a French court had approved an appeal for longer sentences for those involved in the Halimi murder:
Fourteen of those convicted in the brutal slaying of young French Jew Ilan Halimi will face an appeal for increased jail terms. The appeal was granted following intervention from Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

Some French jurists protested the move, and accused Alliot-Marie of giving in to political pressure.

A court had sentenced two people who took part in holding Halimi captive and torturing him to between 15 and 18 years in prison, while a woman who lured Halimi to within kidnappers' reach was sentenced to nine years. Prosecutors had requested that the attackers be sentenced to 20 and 12 years respectively.

Several members of the gang that carried out the murder were sentenced to as few as six months in prison.

Besides prison sentences more fitting for those who committed this heinous crime, perhaps the appeal will somehow increase the exposure that the crime has received in the media.

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