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'Barbarians' gang leader gets life in murder case


Video by Catherine NICHOLSON

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-07-12

Youssouf Fofana, the leader of kidnap gang "The Barbarians", has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Ilan Halimi. The victim's family attorney has complained that the accomplices were treated too leniently.

The family attorney for Ilan Halimi, a Jewish shop clerk who was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 2006, has complained that the court was too "indulgent" regarding the accomplices. The family did not attend the delivery of the verdict on Friday, at which the court ruled that gang leader Youssouf Fofana must serve a minimum of 22 years before he can be considered for parole.  Fofana, 28, was leader of the "barbarian" gang and masterminded the kidnap, torture and murder of Halimi.


The attorney representing the Halimi familiy has appealed to French justice minister Michèle Alliot-Marie to request a retrial.


Of the 26 other defendants in the case, two were acquitted and the rest received sentences of between six months and 18 years jail.


Halimi went missing on January 20, 2006 while on a date with a girl he had met at his workplace.

The girl, now 21, was one of Fofana's accomplices. She was instructed to lure Halimi to the basement of a building in a Paris suburb where he was subsequently attacked and subdued with ether.


She was sentenced to nine years in jail for her role in the crime.

Halimi was tortured for 24 days. Fofana stabbed Halimi and doused his body with alcohol before setting him alight.


His naked and badly burned body was dumped, handcuffed to a tree near a railway track. Halimi died on his way to hospital.


Hate crime


The killing of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi sparked a debate on anti-Semitism in France, as police initially refused to consider the kidnapping a hate crime because the gang tried to extort a ransom from Halimi's family.


However, the brutal nature of the torture and subsequent murder prompted prosecutors to demand a life sentence becuase of the murder's anti-Semitic nature.

Fofana, the son of Ivorian immigrants, raised his fist as he turned up in court at the start of the trial and proclaimed "Allah will conquer!"

Asked to state his name, he answered "African Barbarian Armed Revolt Salafist."


From the beginning of the two-month trial, Fofana made repeated anti-Semitic declarations, threw his shoes at court staff and sacked all his lawyers.


Towards the end of his trial, Fofana told the court: "I would rather live like a lion for a day than as a sheep for one hundred."

A nine-person jury was chosen before the judge imposed a media blackout, which is normal in French courts when juveniles are in the dock. The trial was heard by the special tribunal because two of the defendants, including the girl, were minors when the crime was committed.


Family appeals

Francis Szpiner, the lawyer representing the Halimi family, said he would lodge an appeal against some of the sentences the family considers "lenient".


She said she would ask France's Minister of Justice Michèle Alliot-Marie to support the appeal in the case of six of the defendants who kept Halimi locked up during his three-week ordeal, whom the court sentenced to between ten and 15 years, and also for the girl who lured him to his doom.


Date created : 2009-07-10