Saturday, July 25, 2009

Retrial Of Murder Provoked By Anti-Semitism

*Article below concerns the retrial of an African gang leader and his followers who killed a 23 year old Jewish man, motivated by their hatred. (photo of victim)

Paris gang members who tortured and killed Jewish man to be retried

Members of a Paris gang who kidnapped a Jewish man and tortured him to death in one of France's most gruesome murder cases are to face a retrial on the grounds that their sentences were too lenient.

In a rare government intervention, the justice minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, asked the state prosecutor to appeal for longer jail terms against 14 of the 27 members of the so-called "gang of barbarians" after Jewish groups protested that the sentences last week were insufficient.

Ilan Halimi, 23, a mobile phone salesman, was found naked, with his head shaved, in handcuffs and covered with burn marks and stab wounds near rail tracks outside Paris in February 2006. In a state of shock and unable to speak, he died on the way to hospital. He had been tortured and beaten for three weeks, his eyes taped shut and fed through a straw, while the gang, who believed Jews were "loaded", demanded a ransom from his family.

The case sparked a wave of national soul-searching about antisemitism in France.

The gang leader and mastermind, Youssouf Fofana, 28, charged with murder aggravated by antisemitism, was last week sentenced to life – a minimum of 22 years in prison. On trial with him were 26 others, ranging from those who guarded Halimi in a windowless cellar to people who knew about the plot and failed to tell police. Sentences ranged from six months suspended to 18 years in jail. Two people were acquitted.

But Halimi's mother, who has already complained of a botched police investigation, said the sentences passed out to several gang members were not enough. Jewish groups also protested.

Those who now face a retrial include men who kidnapped and guarded Halimi, as well as the woman who agreed to ensnare him in a "honey trap" by suggesting they meet for a drink. Aged 17 at the time of the crime, she was sentenced to nine years in prison, while the prosecutor had sought a 10- to 12-year sentence.

The minister's intervention in the case has caused controversy among magistrates' unions, who accused the government of interfering in the justice system. Christophe Regnard, head of the biggest magistrates' union, warned of a "dangerous and worrying" precedent. "Justice is different from vengeance," said Emmanuelle Perreux, leader of another magistrates' union.