Halimi suspect denies responsibility

Gang leader: Anti-Semitism not motive behind Jewish man's brutal murder.

Halimi killer 298 (photo credit: AP)
Halimi killer 298
(photo credit: AP)
A leading suspect in the murder of a young French Jewish man told an investigating judge Wednesday that he was not responsible for the killing and had no anti-Semitic motives, his lawyer said. Youssouf Fofana, 25, who is under investigation in the killing, acknowledged that he was the leader of a gang suspected in the case but gave no explanation for the man's death, lawyer Alexandre Martin said. The initial hearing mainly allowed Judge Corinne Goetzmann to inform Fofana of the charges against him, Martin said. Fofana, a Frenchman of Ivorian descent, will be heard in greater detail later. Fofana "is ready to explain what he did," Martin said. Authorities found 23-year-old Ilan Halimi naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris on Feb. 13. He died on the way to the hospital after being held captive for more than three weeks. Critics accused police of initially ignoring anti-Semitic motives in the crime, which caught the attention of top government officials and has revived fears of anti-Semitism in France. French police have detained 18 people in the investigation, including Fofana, who fled to Ivory Coast. Ivorian authorities extradited him to France last month.