Life term for French Jew’s murderer

Head of “Gang of Barbarians” imprisoned for at least 22 years for murdering Jewish man.

France Jew murder trial
Szpiner, the Halimi family's lawyer, called the sentences for the accomplices lenient [AFP]

He died on his way to hospital shortly after he was found naked, severely burned and handcuffed to a tree by a railway in the Essonne region south of Paris.

Fofana pretended to applaud, then smiled and stuck his thumbs up when the verdict was read out on Friday.

The murder led to mass protests againt anti-Semitism being held across France.

Anti-Semitic violence

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull said the killing was one that “horrified the nation”.

“[It] raised the spectre of anti-Semitism among western Europe’s largest Jewish community,” he said.

“Most of the trial took place behind closed doors. With the verdict now out in the open, there are concerns it may spark a new wave of racial tension.”

Halimi had been befriended by a female member of the gang in a mobile phone shop where he worked and lured to an empty apartment in the suburbs of Paris in February 2006.

He was attacked by the gang on his arrival and drugged.

A month after the start of the trial, Fofana admitted to having stabbed and poured flammable liquid over Halimi setting him alight.

Fofana, a 28-year-old of Ivorian origin who led the self-styled Gang of Barbarians, expressed no remorse and expressed defiance throughout the trial.

He smirked at Hamili’s relatives, shouted “God is greatest!” and at one point threw shoes at lawyers during the trial.

Variety of charges

The defendants were convicted on a variety of charges, including kidnapping by an organised group, sequestration that resulted in death or failing to assist a person in danger.

Two defendants were acquitted, including one young woman who was told by the presiding judge she could seek indemnities for spending three years in jail before the trial.

Francis Szpiner, the family’s lawyer, said: “I am pleased that the Paris court of assizes has recognised the anti-Semitic character of this crime.

“It was because he was Jewish that Ilan Halimi was killed and tortured. No one can challenge this judicial truth.”

‘Lenient sentences’

But Szpiner said he was disappointed at the leniency of sentences handed to some of Fofana’s accomplices and asked the justice ministry to seek an appeal.

The trial, which began April 29, was held behind closed doors in a juvenile court because two of the defendants were minors at the time of the attack.

Critics said police initially ignored the possibility of anti-Semitic motives in the killing, which, as the case wore on, prompted fears of its resurgence in France.

Scores of police, some in full riot gear, took up posts around the Palais de Justice in central Paris on Friday.

The victim’s family was not present for the verdict.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies