Ilan Halimi – A Murder in France
In January 2006, a young man named Ilan Halimi arranged a date with a woman he’d met in the shop where he worked. She was a member of “The Barbarians,” a gang who lay in wait for Halimi that night and kidnapped him.
Over the next three weeks, Halimi was held in a basement and tortured to death. Beaten, stabbed and burned over four fifths of his body, Halimi was eventually found handcuffed and abandoned in a field. Halimi died on the way to hospital.
Now, over three years later, Youssouf Fofana, the leader of “The Barbarians,” is being tried in Paris for the role he played in those crimes. Fofana “swaggered into court” and shouted out the takbir (Allahu Akbar). He has also stated that he has “friends” in court who can take photographs and identify jurors. Fofana had previously tried to escape justice by fleeing to the Ivory Coast, but he was quickly tracked down and extradited back to France.
Twenty six other members of Fofana’s “Barbarians” are facing charges as well; one of the most disturbing aspects of this crime is the way so many people participated in it. Several of the accused have admitted that Halimi was targeted because he was Jewish, and they believed that their victim’s family would be able to meet their ransom demands.
In 2008, in the same Parisian suburb of Bagneux where Ilan Halimi was held captive, six youths abducted Mathieu Roumi. They handcuffed and beat him, wrote “dirty jew” on his forehead, and told him that he would die the same way Ilan Halimi did before finally releasing him. The American writer Nidra Poller has also compared Halimi’s murder with the killing of Sebastien Selam, a twenty three year old who worked as a DJ in a Parisian nightclub, by one of his Muslim neighbours. Selam’s murderer not only “smote his victim above the neck,” he mutilated his face and eyes. The murderer then returned to his family home, where he told his mother that he would go to paradise because he had killed a jew.
After Ilan Halimi was murdered, the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a message to Nicolas Sarkozy, at that time the interior minister, saying, “These acts are a test for Europe. Jihadi violence, hatred and anti-Semitism must be prevented from taking root in French soil.” Sarkozy replied that antisemitic violence is “not inevitable” in France, and he considers combating it to be “a moral imperative.”
Ilan’s mother, Ruth Halimi, has said that she wants the public to know what happened to her son, so that this kind of story never has to be told in France again.
Sources: The Times February 22nd 06, Wall Street Journal February 23d 06, NY Times March 5th 06, The Times April 30th 09, The Jerusalem Post April 30th 09, The Age May 2nd 09, European Jewish Press March 5th 08, Haaretz March 5th 08, Frontpage Magazine December 4th 03, NY Sun January 25th 05, paris chronicler October 30th 07, Slate December 12th 06, AOL News April 30th 09, France 24 April 30th 09, Simon Wiesenthal Center News Releases February 20th 06, May 10th 06, JTA April 2nd 09.