Halimi murder suspect to be extradited

Fofana brought into court under heavy police guard; 1,000 gather at Kotel.

ilan halimi photo 298 (photo credit: AP)
ilan halimi photo 298
(photo credit: AP)
An Ivorian court ruled on Thursday to extradite the Ilan Halimi murder suspect Youssef Fofana to France. The Frenchman of Ivorian descent was brought to court under heavy police guard for a closed hearing on whether he should be extradited to face charges he led a gang that kidnapped, tortured and killed a Jewish man near Paris. The Jewish man, 23-year-old Ilan Halimi, was held for three weeks and tortured after his Jan. 21 kidnapping. He was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks on Feb. 13 near railroad tracks south of Paris, and died on his way to a hospital. A police cordon kept the public out of the area immediately surrounding the court house as suspect Youssef Fofana was brought in. Ali Yeo, a justice ministry spokesman, said such hearings are usually open, but could be closed under unusual circumstances. "This measure is justified by the passions surrounding this affair," Yeo said, adding the court would make an announcement about the hearing once it was completed. The court could rule on France's extradition request later Thursday. Security forces had arrested Fofana on Feb. 22 in an Abidjan suburb. On Monday, Fofana appeared in another Abidjan court to be formally told he was wanted in France. He was taken afterward to the city's central prison and has been held there since. Halimi's murder has revived concerns of anti-Semitism in France. On Wednesday evening almost one thousand people gathered at the Western Wall for a prayer service in memory of Ilan Halimi. The service was organized by Sabine Attias at the request of the Halimi family, who wanted a memorial ceremony for their son to take place at the Kotel. "Ilan Halimi had been in the process of making aliyah," said Attias, who is Communications Director at Amutat Lev Avi, an organization that helps French Jews make aliyah and find work. Halimi had been involved with Amutat Lev Avi for three months prior to his death. Attias spoke to the crowd that had gathered in Ilan's memory in the Cardo, which is located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, next to the Arab market. She spoke as a friend of the Halimi family, whom she was close with.