27 go on trial in French anti-Semitic case

Twenty-seven people went on trial today accused of the torture and killing a young Jew, in a case that horrified France.

Youssouf Fofana, the presumed leader of the group, is charged with premeditated murder, demanding ransom and acts of torture and barbarism.

French authorities found 23-year-old Ilan Halimi naked, handcuffed and covered with burns near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris in February 2006 after being held captive for more than three weeks. He died on the way to hospital.

As some of the accused were minors at the time of the crime, the trial is likely to be held behind closed doors in juvenile court. Ten women and 17 men are on trial.

With the exception of Fofana, the accused are charged with a variety of crimes, including entrapment, kidnapping by an organised group, sequestration by an organised group that resulted in death or failing to assist a person in peril.

Fofana and his accomplices had tried to kidnap other people, including some of Jewish faith, with the intent to demand ransom before seizing Mr Halimi.

His mother, Ruth, said the proceedings should be open to the public.

The family’s lawyers say Mr Halimi was targeted because he was Jewish. Critics say police initially ignored evidence of anti-Semitic motives in the killing, which caught the attention of senior government officials and prompted fear of a resurgent anti-Semitism in France.

Mr Halimi’s body was reburied in a Jerusalem cemetery in 2007.

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