(photo credit: AP)
Twenty-seven young people went on trial Wednesday afternoon on charges of participating in the 2006 brutal torture and murder of Parisian Jew Ilan Halimi, in a case that horrified France.
Youssouf Fofana, the presumed leader of the group, stands accused of premeditated murder, demanding ransom and acts of torture and barbarism. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
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 after being held captive for more than three weeks.
As some of the accused were minors at the time of the crime, the trial is likely to be held behind closed doors in juvenile court. Ten young women and 17 young men are to be tried.
With the exception of Fofana, the accused are charged with a variety of crimes, including entrapment, kidnapping by an organized group, sequestration by an organized group that resulted in death or failing to assist a person in peril.
Fofana and his accomplices had tried to kidnap other people, including some of Jewish faith, with the intent to demand ransom before seizing Halimi.
Halimi's mother, Ruth, said in a French television interview aired this week that she believed the proceedings should be open to the public.
The family's lawyers say Halimi was targeted because he was Jewish. Critics say police initially ignored evidence of anti-Semitic motives in the killing, which caught the attention of senior government officials and prompted fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism in France.
Halimi's body was reburied in a Jerusalem cemetery in 2007.