France to appeal Halimi trial verdicts

Prosecutor instructed to appeal sentences against "gang of barbarians" in brutal murder of French Jew.

Halimi 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Halimi 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The prosecution will appeal the sentences of gang members who kidnapped, tortured and killed a young French Jew, French Justice Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie said Monday, arguing that they were too lenient. Alliot-Marie said she instructed the Paris prosecutor to appeal the sentences against members of the self-styled "gang of barbarians," who were convicted on Friday for the killing of Ilan Halimi, a crime that drew widespread attention for its brutality. The Paris prosecutor's office said it will appeal sentences that were lighter than requested. Sentences for the 27 members of the gang ranged from life in prison to 6 months behind bars to acquittal, in the case of two people. On Friday, gang leader Youssouf Fofana was handed down a sentence of in prison with 22 years before parole can be considered, the maximum penalty under French law. Two of his accomplices were sentenced to 18 and 15 years, but several other gang members received sentences of about 10 years, slightly less than what prosecutor had wanted. According to chief prosecutor Philippe Bilger, the sentencing was been fair. "From my point of view, the verdict was an exemplary one, as were the debates and the trial as a whole," Bilger told France Inter radio. He dismissed criticism from some Jewish groups who found the sentences too lenient, saying it was normal for accomplices to be handed lighter sentences. Halimi's mother Ruth, however, said she felt that justice was not served. "I'm quite disappointed, not to say appalled," Ruth Halimi told Europe-1 radio on Monday. "I don't see how these sentences can be viewed as exemplary," she said. Halimi, who was 23 at the time of his murder, was reportedly lured by a young French-Iranian woman to his kidnappers' lair in a housing project in Bagneux - a southern suburb of Paris - in late January 2006. There, he was overpowered by a gang of some 21 Arab and African youths, who, using a key provided by the housing project's janitor, tied Halimi to a chair in the basement, where he was savagely tortured for the next 24 days. Halimi was found on February 13, 2006, naked, tied and handcuffed to a tree near a railroad track in the Parisian suburbs, with burns from acid and flammable liquid covering 80 percent of his body, multiple stab wounds, as well as a severed ear and toe. He died on his way to the hospital. Abe Selig contributed to this report