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.”

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