Paris
Paris Reuters

Prosecutors say two young men are in police custody in the death of a Jewish man who was hit by a tram while running away from attackers, AFP reported Wednesday.

The suspects, aged 27 and 23, were taken into custody yesterday.

Jeremy Cohen, 31, was killed about two months ago in an incident which was initially ruled an accident. However, footage of the incident shows him being attacked and inadvertently fleeing into the path of the oncoming tram in an effort to escape his attackers.

According to a report on Radio Shalom in France shortly after Cohen was killed, his family members sought eyewitnesses to find out what exactly had transpired, suspecting that this was not an accident but a racist assault. Cohen's brothers distributed leaflets throughout the area and asked witnesses to contact them and provide them with video documentation or any other information in their possession.

Local residents who had been in the area and filmed the incident responded to their appeals and sent the family shocking videos that convinced the horrified relatives that the incident was far more than a simple accident.

A video posted on YouTube shows Cohen being harassed by a group of Muslims in the town of Bobigny on the outskirts of Paris. A few seconds later, Cohen can be seen trying to escape from his attackers and running into a nearby street just as a tram was passing. The tram hit him, fatally wounding him. Cohen was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The new details prompted reactions from dozens of Jewish leaders in Paris who have called on the state to reopen the investigation into the incident.

French MP Meyer Habib issued a statement saying that, "Many people have approached me following today's publication of the dramatic documentation of this incident that took place a month and a half ago in the suburbs of Paris. In real time the media reported on 'a pedestrian who was run over by the light rail.' In practice, the circumstances of the death of Jeremy Cohen, a 31-year-old religious Jew, appear to have been much more complex. The victim, who according to all the evidence wore a kippah on his head, tried to escape, as the video clearly shows, from a gang of thugs who attacked him. As he ran away from them, he did not see the tram traveling in his direction.

"The pictures are dreadful; this is simply heartbreaking. Today I approached Justice Minister Gerald Darmanin, who confirmed to me that the French authorities are taking the issue very seriously and that the case is being dealt with by the judicial system."

Habib added: "I have also contacted the Justice Ministry and I am waiting for their response. A week before the first round of the French presidential election, a new affair against the background of covert antisemitism seems to be gaining momentum. A tragic coincidence, because today we mark five years since the horrific anti-Semitic murder of Sarah Halimi."