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Timing of French verdict raises suspicions of attempt to minimize media coverage



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Late last night a Parisian court finally announced its verdict in the Ilan Halimi murder trial, which I first wrote about over three years ago here. As I noted at the time, while The Independent in London headlined its piece on the murder “This anti-Semitic attack is terrifying” and Le Monde called it “the anti-Semitic crime of an era,” other papers – notably The Guardian’s sister paper The Observer in London – scrupulously avoided any mention of the fact that the victim was a Jew, and The New York Times was initially silent about the story.

Youssouf Fofana, leader of the gang that mastermind Halimi’s kidnap, torture and murder, which was described by a leading police officer as the most brutal and sadistic in modern French history, was sentenced to life (with a minimum of 22 years). Of the 26 other defendants in the case, two were acquitted and the rest received sentences of between six months and 18 years. Fofana admitted in court that the plan was to “kill a Jew”. Halimi, a 23 year-old shop clerk, was chosen at random.

At the end of 24 days of torture that left and cuts and burn marks all over his body, including his eyes and throat, Halimi, who was handcuffed throughout his ordeal, was doused in alcohol and set alight. One of the young torturers told police his accomplices took turns to stub out cigarettes on Ilan’s forehead and tongue while voicing hatred for Jews. They cut bits off his flesh, fingers and ears.

Fofana, who screamed “Allah Akbar!” (God is greatest) during the trial, has called on others to now murder Halimi’s parents and other French Jews. Scores of police, some in full riot gear, took up posts around the Palais de Justice in central Paris as the verdict was read out last night.

(Above, French Jews protest after the murder.)

The lawyer for Halimi family’s immediately announced he would lodge an appeal against some of the lenient sentences the other gang members received.

Halimi’s remains have been reburied at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Cemetery after repeated threats by anti-Semites to attack his grave in France.

Nidra Poller, who was in the court for the verdict last night, writes from Paris here that the strange timing of the verdict (after 10 pm on Friday when much of Paris had already departed for the “14th July” weekend, the biggest French holiday of the year, and also after the Jewish Sabbath had started when Halimi’s friends and families, many of whom are observant Jews, had left the court) was probably no accident and designed to minimize media coverage. Indeed state-owned France 3 TV unashamedly admitted that the verdict was announced during the Sabbath in order to avoid incidents.

Nidra Poller also has a longer background piece on the case in this month’s edition of the British magazine Standpoint.



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