Youssouf Fofana, the head of the gang that kidnapped and murdered 23-year-old Ilan Halimi in 2006, was sentenced to life imprisonment last Friday, but French Interior Minister Michele Alliot Marie asked for a new trial for 14 other gang members because their sentences were deemed too lenient.
The case of the self-proclaimed “Gang of Barbarians” is aparently not over. After a two-month long trial behind closed doors, the jury gave on Friday its verdict for the 27 people accused of the abduction and death of Ilan Halimi. The sentences ranged from six months to life imprisonment for the gang’s leader Youssouf Fofana who admitted killing Halimi.
But the victim’s family and Jewish community criticized the verdict, saying Fofana’s accomplices got off easy, and France’s Justice Minister Michele Alliot Marie asked the prosecution to appeal the verdict regarding 14 of the accused who got lighter sentences than the ones the prosecution had requested. (AFP picture)
The appeal was filed on Monday.Halimi’s family is now hoping the new trial will be open to the public.
“The trial was a missed opportunity. It should have explored the facts, the construction of (anti-Semitic) stereotypes and the mechanism that lead to this abduction, torture and killing of this young man,” Richard Prasquier, the head of the Jewish umbrella group CRIF told me. “I was shocked by some of the sentences because they were not strong enough, not to the dimension of what had happened. The trial shouldn’t just be Fofana’s trial. His accomplices were part of it all. Any one of them could have put an end to this ordeal at any moment.”
“The accomplices helped the killer massacre Ilan. They participated actively,” Halimi’s mother Ruth said after the verdict. “What they did is terrible. They killed Ilan because he was Jewish. But the verdict is by no means exceptional.”
Meanwhile, Defense lawyers said many of the accused had no link or knowledge of Halimi’s murder.
“They were judged for their deeds and not to set an example,” said Me Seban.
Three years ago, Youssouf Fofana organized Ilan Halimi’s kidnapping, hoping to get a ransom. The leader of the self-proclaimed ‘Gang of Barbarians’ wanted to get a Jew, any Jew, because he thought “they were rich” and would have the money to pay a ransom.
Fofana went to a street with several kosher restaurants and Jewish-owned businesses to find targets. He spotted the stored that were closed on a Jewish holiday and sent the following days several young women to seduce potential victims.
Ilan Halimi was filling in for a friend at a mobile phone shop that day, when Iranian-born Emma entered the store. Ilan asked her out on a date, and she invited him over to her home in a suburb to the south of Paris. He accepted, but when they get there, Halimi was attacked by several men who pushed him into the trunk of a car.
He was then taken to an apartment in the suburb of Bagneux and later to the sordid basement with the help of the building’s guard who gave the gang a set of keys for some money.
For 24 days Fofana tried to negotiate a deal with Ilan’s parents. But the Halimis followed police orders and refused to pay.
As Ilan’s father kept refusing Fofana’s deals, the gang of Barbarians got wilder and wilder. Several members kept beating up Halimi, and a guard even burned Ilan’s forehead with a cigarette while calling him “dirty Jew”.
Fofana eventually realized his plan had failed and decided to get rid of Halimi. The gang stripped Halimi of his clothes and drove him to another suburb, Sainte Genevieve des Bois. Fofana stabbed Halimi several times, spread petrol on his body and torched his victim. Halimi was then abandoned. He was still alive and tried to get help, but succombed when rescuers tried to get him to the hospital.
The court considered that only two of the accused had anti-Semitic motives, Fofana and one of the guards who burned Ilan’s forehead with a cigarette.
Fofana’s main accomplices who guarded the basement and tortured Halimi got 15 to 18 years and the woman who trapped him was sentenced to 9 years and could be freed in two years.
As the ruling came in on Friday night, some of the accused’s friends and families were in court and smiled at them. They cheered as some of their friends’ short sentences were pronounced. Fofana applauded the ruling.