Court announces retrial in Halimi case

14 members of "Barbarians" gang to be retried for their role in brutal killing of 23-year-old French Jew.

Halimi 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Halimi 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Fourteen members of the self-proclaimed "Barbarians" gang will be retried in Paris for their role in the killing of Ilan Halimi, a French Jewish cellphone salesman who was kidnapped, tortured and found dying near a railroad track in February 2006. All 27 members of the gang had been sentenced in the case on Friday, but in a swift turnaround, the office of prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin agreed to ask the Court of Appeals to seek longer sentences than those originally handed out, after Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie called some of the sentences too lenient. However, the gang's leader, Youssouf Fofana, a 28-year-old French national born to immigrants from the Ivory Coast, will not be among those facing a retrial. Fofana, the only defendant convicted of murder, was given a maximum sentence of life in prison on Friday, without the possibility of parole for 22 years. Two of Fofana's accomplices also received heavy sentences of 15 and 18 years behind bars, respectively, but many of the defendants were given lighter terms, and two were acquitted altogether. Some received six-month suspended sentences, and the young woman who was used as bait to lure Halimi to his captors received a sentence of nine years in prison, despite the prosecutor's request for 10 to 12 years. The calls for a retrial were in part a response to criticism from the Halimi family's lawyer and a number of French Jewish associations, which said some of the sentences were too light, given the sheer brutality and anti-Semitic nature of the crime. Fofana had been quoted in 2006 as saying he wanted to kidnap a Jew because "they had money," and when the trial began at the end of April, Fofana yelled, "Allahu akbar!" upon entering the courtroom. He gave his name during formal questioning as "Arabs African, Salafist revolt, barbarian army." The trial itself also brought tensions between French Jews and Muslims to the surface, and saw the outbreak of street brawls and other sporadic acts of violence between the two groups during the two months of proceedings. While many within the Parisian Jewish community were encouraged by the announcement of a retrial - hundreds of demonstrators marched through Paris on Monday night, carrying portraits of Halimi and shouting, "Justice for Ilan!" - some French jurists protested the move, accusing Alliot-Marie of bowing to political pressure. Halimi was 23 when he disappeared in 2006 after going on a date with a girl he had met at his workplace. The girl, who was 17 at the time, led Halimi to an empty apartment, where he was attacked by Fofana and his accomplices. Throughout 24 days of brutal torture, Halimi was kept bound to a chair in the basement while the gang tried to extort a ransom of €450,000 from his family. When it became apparent that the family could not pay, Fofana doused Halimi with alcohol, stabbed him, set him on fire and dumped his naked body by a railway track. Halimi died on his way to the hospital.