Life term sought for accused killer of French Jew

If convicted, Fofana's two prime accomplices face 20 years each, according to a court spokesperson.

Youssouf Fofana 88.298 (photo credit: )
Youssouf Fofana 88.298
(photo credit: )
The prosecuting counsel in the trial of a gang of French youth accused of brutally murdering a young Jew recommended a sentence of life imprisonment Tuesday for the group's ringleader and 20 years each for his two closest accomplices. Ilan Halimi, 23, was entrapped, sequestered, tortured and finally died before he could reach hospital as a result of his 2006 ordeal - allegedly at the hands of a gang led by Youssef Fofana, a French citizen of Ivorian descent. Halimi's horrific death revived old worries in France about lingering anti-Semitism and led to deep anxiety in France's Jewish community, the largest in western Europe. French authorities found Halimi naked, handcuffed and his body covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris. The young man died on the way to the hospital after being held prisoner for more than three weeks. If convicted, Fofana's two prime accomplices face 20 years each, according to a court spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was held behind closed doors. The victim's family says Halimi was killed because he was Jewish, which the prosecuting counsel supported in the summing up Tuesday, said one of their lawyers, Francis Szpiner. The family also believes that the sentences requested were not severe enough, given the gravity of the crime. "The state, by the voice of the state counsel's office, did not respond to the challenge that this crime posed. The case has been banalized," said Szpiner, urging the court to hand down heavier sentences. He said Halimi's mother was feeling "bitter and let down." Fofana fled to Ivory Coast after the killing. He was arrested there and extradited to France. Most of the 29 people charged in the case were tried in youth court because they were minors at the time. As for the six jailers who kept guard over Halimi, the counsel for the prosecutor, Phillipe Bilger, requested jail terms of 12 to 15 years. One minor received such a recommended sentence for having burned the victim with a cigarette. Bilger recommended between 10 and 12 years for the young woman - a minor at the time of the crime - who lured Halimi to his captors. Others face lesser terms. Bilger recommended that two be acquitted. The gruesome treatment of Halimi came out during the trial. Fofana admitted having poured an inflammable liquid on Halimi and burned and slashed him with a knife. The defense begins its final arguments Wednesday. Members of the French-Jewish community had told The Jerusalem Post at the start of trial that just as the grisly murder in 2006 sent tensions soaring between Parisian Jews and Muslims, the trial itself has once again highlighted the deep rifts that exist between the two communities, who often live side-by-side in the blue-collar, low income banlieues, or outlying suburbs of Paris. "A few days before the trial began, some young Jews tried to put up Ilan's picture around Paris, and they were confronted by groups of Arabs," Serge Golan, a reporter for the Hamodia newspaper in Paris told the Post. "Fights broke out between the two sides. The trial is certainly bringing back all the old tensions, if they ever really went away in the first place."