Brutal Anti-Semitic Torture-and-Murder Enrages French Jewry
By Hillel Fendel
French Jewry is infuriated at a cruel, anti-Semitic murder that followed 24 days of torture.
Well over 1,000 people, mostly Jews, marched in Paris on Sunday to protest the killing and the perception that the police and government are not moving diligently to uncover the facts. Speakers at the rally accused politicians of minimizing the crime to avoid exacerbating Muslim tensions - especially after the Muslim riots in Paris two months ago.
The murder victim, Ilan Halimi, 23, was kidnapped and tortured for over three weeks. Seven suspects have been arrested, apparently given over to the authorities by a young woman who was involved in entrapping Halimi. She said she never expected the incident to develop into a murder. The ring-leader of the group, however - Yousouf Fofana, a Moslem from the Ivory Coast who calls himself "the Brain of the Barbarians" - has not yet been caught.
The kidnappers beat, burned and mutilated Halimi during the 24 days they kept him in captivity in an out-of-the-way cellar. The gang contacted Halimi's family with ransom demands, taunting them with anti-Semitic curses and reciting Koranic verses via the phone and e-mail. The kidnappers even sent photos of the bound and blindfolded victim with a gun to his head, in the style of Moslem-taken hostages in Iraq and other areas.
Halimi was finally found on February 13 lying in agony, unclothed and bound, near a railway line outside Paris, with stab wounds and burns over 80% of his body. He died on the way to hospital.
The seven suspects have been charged with "murder linked to the victim's religion," as well as with kidnapping, illegal imprisonment and criminal association.
The Los Angeles Times quoted local Jewish leader and former police chief Sammy Ghozlan as saying, "When the family said they didn't have money, they told them to go to a synagogue to get the money. This gang massacred this young man. They cut off ears and fingers. It was like they had a trophy, a Jewish kid, and everybody abused him."
Arutz-7's French-language editor David Geller said that the Jewish community in Paris is "in shock. Their feeling of security has been rocked in light of the authorities' handling of the case. Many of them are asking themselves if they have any future in France."
"If Ilan hadn't been Jewish, he wouldn't have been murdered," his mother Ruth told the Israeli Haaretz newspaper. Police insisted that they had worked on the case throughout the period of his abduction.
Police forbade the family to publicize their son's disappearance, fearing that the kidnappers would then kill him. Jewish communal leaders said that publicizing the case could have led to the capture of the kidnappers and the possible prevention of the torture Halimi underwent.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told Jewish community leaders at their annual dinner on Monday night that the judge handling the case was investigating leads pointing to an anti-Semitic attack. De Villepin said he had ordered his interior and justice ministers to shed all possible light on the affair. Justice Minister Pascal Clement told the same dinner that one suspect had indicated Halimi was selected "because he was Jewish and because a Jew was rich. That is an aggravating circumstance."