Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TRIAL IN FRANCE FOR JEW'S MURDER

Ruth Halimi holds a photo of her son Ilan
Ilan Halimi was brutally tortured before he died

Twenty-seven people have gone on trial in Paris for the kidnapping and killing of a young Jewish man that shocked France three years ago.

A gang targeting Jews in ransom kidnappings has been blamed for the abduction and brutal torture of the victim, Ilan Halimi.

The alleged gang leader, Youssouf Fofana, shouted "God is great" in Arabic as he entered the courtroom.

The killing prompted large demonstrations against anti-Semitism.

Mr Halimi, 23, was kidnapped and brutally tortured for more than three weeks before he was found naked and tied to a tree near a railway track in the suburbs south of Paris.

He had been stabbed and set alight and he died on his way to hospital.

Youssouf Fofana, the leader of a Paris gang known as The Barbarians, is accused of carrying out the attack and faces life imprisonment if found guilty.

Mr Fofana entered the court wearing a white tracksuit. He looked at Mr Halimi's relatives, shouting "Allahu akbar".

When the judged asked the 28-year-old for his birthday, he said he was born on 13 February, 2006, in Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois - the date and place of Mr Halimi's death.

Youssouf Fofana, courtroom sketch
Youssouf Fofana has pleaded not guilty to murder

Youssouf Fofana is alleged to have instructed gang members to target Jews and to kidnap them until their families paid a ransom.

He has admitted all the charges, including entrapment and kidnapping but he denies stabbing Mr Halimi to death.

The other defendants have been indicted on lesser charges. As some of them were minors at the time of the crime, the judge excluded the public and the press for the remainder of the trial.

The victim, who worked in a mobile phone shop, was lured by a gang member to an empty apartment in the Parisian suburbs where he was attacked and drugged.

During his ordeal, his family were sent harrowing images and video recordings by his captors.

The then-President, Jacques Chirac, promised his parents a full investigation.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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