Halimi's Murderer Gets Life

Family and attorneys for the Halimis criticized the lighter sentences given to main culprit Youssef Fofana's many accomplices.

David Lev ,

Ilan Halimi
Ilan Halimi
Israel News Photo: Wikipedia

A French court late Friday handed down sentences for 27 defendants who participated in the 2006 kidnap, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris. Halimi, who was held captive by kidnappers and tortured for over a month in January 2006, was found in a Paris park near death in February. In 2007, he was reburied in Israel.

The leader of the gang that sadistically murdered the 23 year old Halimi, Youssouf Fofana, was sentenced to life in prison. However, under French law, he will be eligible for parole in 22 years. Fofana's chief accomplices in the crime, Samir Ait Abdelmalek and Jean-Christophe Soumbou, were given sentences of 15 and 18 years respectively. A third defendant, who was a minor at the time, received a 15 year sentence. A girl who was used to lure Halimi to an apartment in a poor suburb of Paris where he was abducted was sentenced to nine years. Two people were acquitted, while the rest of the group, which called itself the "Gang of Barbarians," received sentences of between six months and several years. Among those receiving light sentences were the many teenagers who guarded and tortured Ilan, the caretaker of the building where Ilan was held captive and the father of one of the teen defendants who told his son not to cooperate with police.

The trial began about two months ago, and was conducted behind closed doors. Fofana, a 28 year old Muslim from the Ivory Coast, admitted to murdering Halimi, and used the trial as an opportunity to insult the Halimi family and make numerous anti-Semitic statements. In one incident, Fofana threatened to have the pictures of jurors taken, implying members of his gang would attack them. In another incident, witnesses in the courtroom said that Fofana and other defendants threw their shoes at the jury, shouting "Allahu Akbar."

Among the admissions Fofana made was that he had attempted six times previously to kidnap a Jewish individual, because "Jews have money," and their close knit families would pay.

The Halimi family, along with many members of the Jewish community, demanded that the trial be held in the open, but the court decided otherwise, saying that most of the defendants were minors when the crime was committed.

Attorneys and members of the Halimi family decried the sentences given to many of the defendants. "I regret the court was particularly indulgent toward those who assisted and aided Youssouf Fofana," said family attorney Francis Szpiner, adding "it was because he was Jewish that Ilan Halimi was killed and tortured. No one can challenge this judicial truth."

Members of the Jewish community have been extremely upset with the way the trial was conducted, and a rally is being planned for early next week outside the Ministry of Justice demanding stiffer sentences for Fofana's accomplices, Paris Jewish community sources said. According to French law, if the Ministry appeals the sentences, the entire group will be put up for a full retrial. However, this is considered unlikely, because the court closely followed the sentencing guidelines spelled out by chief court prosecutor Philippe Bilger, who represented the Ministry at the trial.

According to one community source, there was a heavy police presence around the court when the verdict was announced, out of fear there would be clashes between Jews and Muslims. The verdict was handed down just minutes before Shabbat began late Friday, in an effort to ensure a muted Jewish community response, the source said, adding that "Fofana, the Charles Manson-like Muslim barbarian leader, is quite popular with the Muslim community in France."