Tuesday, 30 October 2007

French court examines whether murder of DJ is anti-Semitic

The family of Sebastien Selam, who was murdered in November 2003, was received at the presidential palace on October 19.
The meeting was set a month after French justice decided to reopen its investigation on the killing of the 23-year-old DJ, in what might be considered as the first recent anti-Semitic murder in France, over two years before the killing of young phone salesman Ilan Halimi.

On the night of November 19, as Selam was about to drive to one of Paris’s most notorious night clubs, the Queen, where he had been working for several months, his neighbour Adel Amastaibou, a man known as unstable and violent, murdered the DJ in their building’s parking lot.

During his questioning in police head quarters later that night, Adel Amastaibou admitted to the police that he had killed Selam. According to the deposition typed by the police, the killer said he was happy that ‘the dirty Jew was dead’.

Investigators questioned several of Amastaibou’s friends and they have yet to determine whether some of them were his accomplices in the killing.

“We believe that the murder was premeditated,” Selam family lawyer Alex Metzker told me. “One of Adel Amastaibou’s friends lent him the knife he used, a second one guarded the entrance of the building and a third hid the murderer’s cell phone and gave it to the police only a month later, all deleted.”

The neighbourhood Jewish community was deeply affected by the murder and 3000 people attended the funeral,
I was working at the Jewish radio the night of the murder and talked to some of Selam’s friends, who were in shock.

However, Police considered that since Amastaibou had been treated in the past in a psychiatric institution he could not be held responsible for his actions.
When the case was examined in court, defence lawyer Ambroise Colombani gathered 3 Psychiatric expertises diagnosing his client as unstable and in 2006 the court discharged the case and Amastaibou was sent to the Maison Blanche hospital centre in Paris, where he had been treated in the past. He has since been transferred from the hospital to another institution, which remains under medical confidence.

“The Selam affair is a lost case,” former CRIF president Cukierman has told the Jewish press in 2004. He considered that since Amastaibou was diagnosed as insane there was no use for mobilising the Jewish community. Mr Cukierman wanted to avoid labelling a crime as anti-Semitic before police investigators confirmed that it was indeed a hate crime.

However, Selam’s mother Juliette and her lawyer do not believe the insanity theory.
“Obviously, a man who kills so savagely is deranged, but not irresponsible for his actions,” added Metzker. “He is a borderline case and he must be judged.”
Metzger stressed that Amastaibou had already been convicted by a court of anti-Semitic violence in an earlier case, several months before the Selam killing, after he had attacked a rabbi.
“He was considered sane at the time,” said the lawyer.

On September 17 2007, the victim’s mother Juliette Selam obtained a re-examination of the case after her new lawyer proved that the first court decision was never delivered to her by the post. The envelop was sitting on a shelf of the court’s archive room.

Cukierman’s successor at the head of the CRIF, Richard Prasquier, received Juliette Selam after his election and on October 19 Sebastien Selam’s mother was received at the Elysée presidential palace by Christophe Ingrain, President Sarkozy’s adviser on justice affaires.

“I believe things are changing. I believe the truth can be discovered,” Juliet Selam told me.
But Selam worries about the whereabouts of Amastaibou.
After her call for an appeal was accepted, Mrs Selam received letters from her son’s murderer, asking that she dropped the charges. Amastaibou announced in his letter that he would come to pay her a visit.
“This situation is insane,” Juliet Selam told the JC. “I am still living in the same building where my son was killed and I have nowhere to go.”

“Where do I find hope and courage to continue? He is looking at me from above and he wants me to get to the bottom of this,” Juliet Selam told the JC. “I simply have to know the truth about what exactly happened to my son.”

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Letter from France: French first lady vanishes

Cherchez la femme!

Where is Cecilia? French newspapers have been investigating the whereabouts of French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy because she has vanished from TV screens and media events. The spouse of President Nicolas Sarkozy has apparently disappeared from public life -- or at least from her husband's public life -- days before the launch of a special commission to investigate the "Libyan deal" signed between France and Libya for the liberation of Bulgarian nurses, in which Cecilia Sarkozy supposedly played a major role.

Cecilia Sarkozy was not expected to testify in front of the committee, although she spoke with Libyan President Muammar Kadhafi before the nurses where released. The French presidential palace ruled out any kind of questioning, but the media are nevertheless investigating the reasons for her silence.

"Has the presidential couple broken up again after its previous separation in 2005?" wondered The Express magazine. These questions have never been asked before in France, where public opinion didn't grant much importance to its leaders' private lives, even though some of them, such as François Mitterrand, led double lives with two separate families.

However, the Sarkozy family is somewhat different. Journalists explain that since Nicolas Sarkozy invited the press, on his own initiative, into his private life, they felt they had the right to follow up on the matter. The media, however, opted for extreme caution after the head editor of a major magazine (Paris Match) was fired after publishing a photo of Cecilia Sarkozy with her former lover, Jewish publicist Richard Attias. Nicolas Sarkozy befriends journalists but reacts strongly when they reveal certain details his PR team didn't send out to them.

Surveys show that the French admire Sarkozy for his energy and genuine will to change things in their country, but that they also have a hard time keeping up with him.

The Libyan affair is one example. Sarkozy surprised Europe when he sent his wife to Libya to wrap up the case and take the credit for the liberation of the nurses the next day. But the French are furthermore intrigued by the content of the deal that was settled with Kadhafi and the possible concessions made by Paris. A mysterious nuclear energy and weapons deal was concluded, according to the Libyans, and the French wonder what its exact implications are.

"We won't force Cecilia Sarkozy to testify if she doesn't wish to do so, but she and her husband are accountable," declared the head of the committee, Pierre Moscovici, on the Jewish radio station.

"We won't send the police to the presidential palace to get Cecilia," said another Socialist official, Elisabeth Guigou.

The committee will have to settle with hearing Claude Guéant, Sarkozy's chief adviser, who joined Cecilia Sarkozy in her Libyan mission, or vice versa. The committee launched its inquiry last week.

The rules have changed since Nicolas Sarkozy's election five months ago, just as was promised in his campaign. Former rules are no longer valid. Sarkozy wants results.

He recruited Socialist members of Parliament for his own government and various projects, among them American admirer FM Bernard Kouchner and American-hater former FM Hubert Vedrine. Sarkozy pulled one of his most serious rivals, former Socialist presidential candidate Dominique Strauss Kahn, out of the French political scene by pushing him up to the head of the International Monetary Fund.

The French president found appropriate ways to deal with his various opponents, starting with the racist and anti-Semitic far right. Sarkozy attracted Jean-Marie Le Pen's traditional voters with his ideas on immigration and contributed to Le Pen's first setback in decades. Five months after losing massively to Sarkozy in the presidential election, Le Pen's Front National is ruined and has practically collapsed.

This year alone, following its two electoral defeats in the presidential and parliamentary polls, the Front National lost over $11 million, and the party is now considering selling its historical headquarters. At 79, Le Pen is about to retire from a divided party that lost its voters, private donors and public funding.

The extremist threat, however, hasn't completely vanished, because a new and younger Le Pen will apparently follow the old one. Marine Le Pen, currently vice president of the Front National, has announced she would run for the presidency of her father's party once he has retired.

Analysts are divided upon the future of the party under Marine Le Pen's leadership, if she does inherit it from her father, because she has adopted, in appearance, much softer manners than her father's. Would Marine Le Pen's Front National be more moderate or more dangerous than today's far-right party?

She acts in a more subtle way than her father, who is regularly denounced for his extremist reactions. The daughter makes every possible effort to appear moderate and open, jumping on every opportunity to work with minorities, Jews, blacks and Arabs, hiding her irritation. Marine Le Pen is the one who decided that a black woman would appear on her party's campaign posters. She chose a Jewish deputy, Jean-Richard Sulzer, for the Paris Regional Council and asked, unsuccessfully, to meet with Jewish organizations.

When I met with Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen in April, before the presidential election, she tried to joke around with me. But while smiling, she repeated that there was no anti-Semitism in France and therefore no reason to denounce such a phenomenon or fight against it.

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism does exist and some victims have to struggle to be considered as such.

The press reported on the Ilan Halimi affair -- the young man who was abducted in 2006 by a gang that hoped to get a ransom and ended up killing him -- but another murder, that of 23-year-old Jewish man, Sebastien Selam, is still silenced.

Selam, also known as DJ Lam-C, was a successful DJ who worked in some of the most prestigious nightclubs in Paris. On the night of Nov. 19, 2003, he was savagely assassinated by his neighbor, Adel, who lived next door to him for years. After the murder, Adel bragged about killing a Jew and said he would go to heaven.

On Aug. 8, 2006, a court decided that the murderer was mentally unstable and therefore could not be held responsible for killing Selam. Moreover, Selam's mother, Juliette, and her lawyer were not informed of the ruling and therefore couldn't appeal the decision. After months of solitary struggle, Juliette Selam finally obtained from the court a reopening of the case, and she now hopes for a new trial.

In the meantime, her son's murderer wrote to her and demanded that she drop the charges.

Selam says that she's not afraid, declaring: "The worst has already happened."

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Dichter on terror: “France shouldn’t pay the price Israel paid”

French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie received her Israeli counterpart Avi Dichter at Place Beauvau on Tuesday, and announced an increased collaboration in the war on terror between French and Israeli police and Intelligence.

“We have measured the need to follow-up our two countries’ strong cooperation in counter-terrorism and public security,” said Alliot-Marie. “Both countries are facing the same threats and we need to exchange information, technology, share our skills and develop research.”

“Michele Alliot-Marie announced on Tuesday that France was about to invest 1Billion euros in research. That’s a brave statement,” said Dichter, who added that a new group of high level police officials would meet and launch additional efforts to increase cooperation between the two countries.

“We can still strengthen our collaboration capacity. This is a necessity for our citizens’ security,” declared Alliot Marie.

“[MAM] is a brave minister. She established a strong collaboration between Israel and France when she was defence minister, investing massively in UAVs. Today she is endorsing strengthened collaboration in security,” said Dichter. “I’m looking forward to our common work in fighting terror and crime, giving advice in maintaining public order.”

“France shouldn’t pay the price we paid and we offer all of our experience in battling terror, free of charge. We offer the same to other security services.”
“Today we have discussed the new working group composed of our best police officials and the excellent professional appointed by the French government. They will examine the situation and ways to push forward our collaboration in the upcoming month and we will then sign a new agreement, either when [Michèle Alliot Marie] will be in Israel or when we’ll be back here in Paris, for a strengthened cooperation. We will launch our new common path with many challenges – the ones I’ve just mentioned and others.”

According to the Interior ministry, Michele Alliot-Marie received a dozen ministers this week to discuss cooperation in the war on terror as France was organising the international exhibition of internal state security - Milipol - at the Bourget, near Paris. 44 countries were present with 950 stands. Israel was the 6th country, represented by 42 companies that were, according to the Figaro, “a length ahead” of the others.

France’s main counter terror bureaux, the RG and DST, are in a fusion process that will be completed in 2008. Their leaders, Bernard Squarcini and Joël Bouchité, evaluated on Monday that the terror alert in France was high.

L’homme qui m’a privée de nationalité

J’apprends par Libé le décès du journaliste Serge de Beketch. Homme d’extrême droite, directeur du Libre journal de la France Courtoise, pour moi il fut surtout l’homme qui m’a privée de ma nationalité française... sur le papier bien entendu.

Pour la première fois de ma vie, on m’appela « la journaliste israélienne », alors que nous étions en France et que j’ai toujours porté la nationalité française.

Reproduisant des extraits d’une interview que j’avais faite de Marine Le Pen, qui voulait à l’époque se joindre à une visite de parlementaires en Israël, Beketch tentait de déformer mes propos et trouvait étrange que je m’intéresse à ce qui se passe en France.
Comme de bien nombreuses personnes, j’ai ressenti un petit frisson étrange venu d’un coup des méandres du rejet et du mépris.

Selon Libé, Beketch savait surtout manier l’invective à l’égard de ceux qu’il considérait être ses ennemis. J’ai été épargnée.

Comme disait Richard II, "What more remains?"

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Bush tente de bloquer la reconnaissance du génocide arménien

Trois questions à Yves Ternon, historien et auteur de plusieurs livres sur les génocides dont 'Guerres et génocides au XXème siècle' Editions Odile Jacob, 2007.

Q:La position de Bush, refusant la reconnaissance du génocide arménien par le Congrès est-elle nouvelle ? Est-elle répandue parmi les dirigeants ?

Yves Ternon: Elle n’est pas nouvelle. C’est un débat qui s’enlise aux Etats-Unis depuis des années et George Bush est manipulé par des lobbies, notamment au sein du parti républicain, qui tentent d’empêcher le vote de la loi pour conforter les relations entre les USA et la Turquie. George Bush est ignorant en matière d’histoire des génocides. Sa position est excessive et le Président américain est parmi les rares leaders à la défendre. Les historiens ne se posent plus la question de l’existence du génocide arménien, puisque c’est une évidence. Le génocide arménien, comme la Shoah et le génocide tutsi répondent à des critères très clairs.

Q:Quels sont ses critères ?

Yves Ternon: Un génocide est pratiqué par un Etat qui a sciemment planifié et préparé la destruction d’un groupe de personnes. Dans le cas du génocide arménien la question ne se pose pas. Les historiens ainsi que des parlements, des Etats et organisations internationales ont reconnu le génocide. Mais certains lobbies essayent de ménager l’Etat turc. Georges Bush ne connaît rien à rien.

Q:Plusieurs parlements, notamment en France, ont adopté des lois reconnaissant le génocide.
Yves Ternon: Que représente le débat qui se poursuit aux Etats-Unis ? Le débat aux Etats-Unis est l’une des clés qui permettraient de dénouer ce problème. Plusieurs pays ont promulgué des lois, faisant ainsi avancer le travail de mémoire, mais le débat aux Etats-Unis a une importance particulière. Si le Congrès américain adoptait la loi, l’Etat turc serait acculé, le dos au mur et il serait forcé d’entamer un travail de mémoire. La législation est la seule manière de vaincre les négationnistes au niveau politique.

Propos recueillis par Shirli Sitbon