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Ringleader Gets Life

For murder of French Jew, but accomplices get off easy

Michael Weiss
July 13, 2009

A French court sentenced Youssouf Fofana, the 25-year-old son of Ivory Coast immigrants, to life in prison on Friday for the crime of abducting and torturing to death Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Jew. Halimi had been kept in a cellar in Bagneux, just south of Paris, for close to three weeks in the beginning of 2006, as his captors, who accurately described themselves as the “Barbarians,” sued for ransom. Halimi worked at a telephone shop in Paris and was kidnapped, according to Fofana, because Jews are “loaded with dough.” (When told that the Halimis were not wealthy, the gang said they should get the money from their synagogue; they even contacted a random rabbi, saying, “We have a Jew.”)

As The New York Times reported in 2006, Halimi had been tied with tape, beaten, stabbed, and burned with cigarettes and acid (the better, his torturers thought, to conceal their own DNA evidence) before being deposited in a wooded area, from which he crawled, “naked and bleeding from at least four stab wounds to his throat, his hands bound and adhesive tape covering his mouth and eyes,” to his agonizing end.

Though about 20 people are said to have been involved in the crime, Fofana, as ringleader, received the stiffest sentence. Unrepentant, he applauded when the judge read it to him. Fofana’s two top accomplices were given 15 and 18 years, while other (lesser?) Barbarians received sentences of 6 and 9 months. One was let off entirely. Though many have compared the Halimi case to the Dreyfus Affair, the difference here is that no one actually denies the Barbarians’ guilt: les bien pensant argue that the crime wasn’t a function of anti-Semitism but of “poverty” and “ignorance;” the victim’s mother counters that the police are reluctant to admit that pathological Jew-hatred had anything to do with it because they’re afraid of offending French Muslims. And while the argument that the Barbarians were motivated by greed may account for their ransom demands—which, as a sign of both the stupidity and amateurishness of their enterprise, oscillated between $500,000 and $5,000—the fact that they could so blithely torture and murder a Jew does more than hint at “crude stereotypes” about Hebraic bank accounts, doesn’t it?

Man Sentenced to Life in Killing of Jew in France [NYT]