Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Barbarians before the court.: the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi

Paris Match: 29th April 2009

Three years after the events, Youssouf Fofana and his 26 alleged accomplices, who called themselves the "gang of Barbarians," are going to be tried by the Paris Court of Assizes for Minors. The "facts." Words cannot describe the atrocities they committed in February 2006, against the young Ilan Halimi, ensnared, captured, and held hostage for 24 days before being burned alive then abandoned in a wood.
Three weeks of horror, during which the young 23 year-old Jew suffered totally. Starting with humiliation and torture - of which he still bore the red marks on his body - but also the cold - he was naked in an unheated cellar in the middle of winter -, and hunger.

Ilan Halimi had been lured, on 20th January 2006, by a young girl who had approached him three days earlier in the phone shop on the Boulevard Voltaire in Paris, where he was doing temporary work.

The following day, the young man's family received a ransom demand: 450,000 Euros. According to statements from members of the "gang," Ilan had been chosen, "because they (Jews) are loaded with dough." So, they reckoned they could make a pile, assuming that their target would be supported by his community. But the police, who took control of the situation, according to the victim's mother, advised against payment of the ransom.

"Allah will conquer."

Ilan was finally found near death on February 13th near a Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois station, in Essonne. He would die in the ambulance taking him to hospital. His torturers, two of whom were minors at the time, are being tried for "kidnapping, illegal confinement by an organised gang with acts of torture and barbarism, murder." Others for "non-assistance to a person in danger." The aggravating circumstance of the offences, "by reason of the victim's belonging to an ethnicity, a race or a particular religion," which was not initially upheld by the prosecutor, finally was. The minors are going to request a hearing in camera, which must be allowed to them because of their age at the time of the events.

Ilan's mother, who has written a book entitled, "24 Hours," now shouts out her anger. First of all against the investigators in charge of the case when her son was being held - his death could have been avoided according to her -, but also now against the probable hearing in camera. "It's the law of silence that killed her son. It would be intolerable if it is once again imposed at the assizes," stated Maitre Francis Szpiner, her lawyer.

At the opening of the trial, at around 10.40am, Youssouf Fofana, his head shaved and his beard clipped, dressed in a white jacket, took on a huge grin. Pointing his finger towards the sky, he shouted: "Allah will conquer."

Ynet News 29/05/09

Youssouf Fofana tells Paris court 'you know very well it was me' during presentation of forensic evidence; says he set young Jew alight.

Youssouf Fofana, the presumed leader of the "gang of barbarians", confessed on Friday to killing French Jew Ilan Halimi in 2006 after detaining and torturing him for three weeks, said a source familiar with the case.
The trial is being held behind closed doors at a juvenile court in Paris because two of the remaining 26 defendants were minors at the time of the murder.

According to the source, who was present at the hearing, Fofana said "Yes, I did it; you know very well that it was me" during the presentation of the findings of two forensic experts who had examined Halimi's body.

AFP further quoted the source as saying that Fofana admitted to pouring a flammable liquid on Halimi and then setting him alight.

The prosecution described 28-year-old Fofana, whose parents came to France from Ivory Coast, as a "perverted megalomaniac" who instructed accomplices to target Jews for ransom kidnappings "because they are loaded with dough (money)".

French authorities found 23-year-old Halimi naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris on Feb. 13, 2006.

He died on the way to the hospital and was later buried in Israel.

After the murder, Fofana fled to Ivory Coast, where he made death threats by telephone to Halimi’s father and girlfriend. He was extradited to France on March 4, 2006 and was charged with premeditated murder, demanding ransom, and acts of torture and barbarism. He faces a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The murder horrified France and came to symbolize a rise in anti-Semitic violence in its poor, multi-ethnic suburbs.

Reuters, AP contributed to the report