Ilan Halimi: Wikis


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Ilan Halimi

Ilan Halimi
Born October 11, 1982(1982-10-11)
Died February 13, 2006 (aged 23)[1]
Paris, France
Occupation Salesman

Ilan Halimi (Hebrew: אילן חלימי‎) was a young French Jew (of Moroccan parentage)[2] kidnapped on 21 January 2006 by an Muslim gang called the "Barbarians" and subsequently tortured, over a period of three weeks, resulting in his death. The murder, amongst whose motives authorities include antisemitism[3], incited a public outcry in a France already marked by intense public controversy about the role of children of Muslim immigrants in its society.


Timeline of the crime

According to press reports based on information from French criminal investigation authorities, as of 25 February 2006 the crime is believed to have happened as follows:

  • On 20 January, Halimi was lured by an attractive seventeen year old girl named Yalda,[4] of French-Iranian origin,[5] to an apartment block in the Parisian banlieues.[6]
  • There Halimi was overwhelmed by a youth gang and kept prisoner for twenty-four days.[7] During that time, his kidnappers tortured him by wrapping his head in tape (except for a mouth opening for feeding him with a straw), stabbing him, burning his face and body, and beating him in order to try to extract a ransom of initially EUR 450,000 from his family.[7] As the days wore on, his captors turned increasingly cruel, stripping off his clothes and beating, scratching and cutting him. A burning cigarette was pressed into his forehead. His kidnappers finally poured flammable liquid on him and set him on fire. Reportedly, neighbors came by to watch and to even participate in the torture but no one called the authorities.
  • On 13 February, Halimi was found naked, tied and handcuffed to a tree near a railroad track in the Parisian outskirts, with burns from acid and flammable liquid covering 80% of his body (possibly to destroy evidence of his captors' DNA), with multiple stab wounds, as well as with one severed ear and toe. On the way to the hospital, he died from his wounds.
  • In the subsequent days, French police arrested 21 persons in connection with the crime, including the woman used as bait. The alleged leader of the gang, Youssouf Fofana, fled to his parents' homeland of Ivory Coast, where he was arrested on 23 February. Fofana was extradited back to France on 4 March 2006.

The kidnappers and their associates

Implicated in the crime are the members of a youth gang calling themselves "les barbares" (the Barbarians), many of whom were Muslim[8]. The people so far arrested are mostly unemployed children of immigrants from African countries. In total, 27 individuals were under investigation and were subsequently put on trial. Currently, 19 of those individuals have been convicted and imprisoned. These include:

Youssouf Fofana
Youssouf Fofana (25; b. 2 August 1980), the self-proclaimed "Brain of the Barbarians". He was born in Paris to immigrants from Ivory Coast and served three to four years in prison for various crimes including armed robbery and resisting arrest.[9] In an interview he denied killing Halimi, but showed no sign of remorse for his extreme cynicism.[10]
Christophe Martin-Vallet

Christophe M-V, aka "Moko", a 22-year-old Martinique French man, specializing in computers. He appears to have masterminded the kidnappings and to have been the lieutenant of Fofana.[11] He was monitoring the honeypot activities of the girls[12].

Sorour Arbabzadeh
Sorour Arbabzadeh aka "Yalda" (or "Emma"), a seventeen-year-old French-Iranian girl who acted as a honeypot to lure Halimi into the gang's lair.[4]
Jean-Christophe Gavarin
Jean-Christophe Gavarin, aka "Zigo", aka "JC" aged 17, one of the individuals who tortured Ilan.[11]
Gilles Serrurier
"The concierge," [13] Gilles Serrurier[14] (39; b. 1967), of the banlieu to which Halimi was taken, who lent his attackers the apartment and cellar in which they tortured and killed him.[11]

The motives for the crime

The kidnapping seems to be motivated by a combination of anti-Semitism and a desire for money, though there is a debate over whether or not the anti-Semitism stemmed from the attackers' Muslim identity or from mainstream French society. The kidnappers originally thought Halimi was wealthy because he came from a Moroccan Jewish family, though he came from the same poor and working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris as the kidnappers did. [15]

Indications for money as a motive

  • The kidnappers demanded ransom, initially EUR 450,000; this then dropped to EUR 5,000.
  • The French police initially believed that anti-Semitism was not a factor in the crime.[16]
  • Youssef Fofana, who also denies being the mastermind of the kidnapping, has been reported to have said that it was only for the money, without any anti-Semitic motivation.
  • As the investigation progresses, this gang appears to have been implicated in at least 15 other cases of racketeering.[17] Posing as members of the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica or member of the French division of the PFLP, they threatened several high ranking CEOs including Jérôme Clément, président of the European TV operator Arte, Rony Brauman, former president and co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, and the CEO as well as another high-ranking member of a large company selling home appliances. They sent threatening pictures of an unknown man dressed as a middle-eastern Arab in front of a picture of Osama Bin Laden. In another case, the owner of a large grocery store was directed to pay 100,000 euros.

Indications for antisemitism as a motive

  • According to then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, members of the gang confessed that they believed all Jews to be rich and it motivated them to target several Jews,[18] culminating with Halimi.[16] This starkly contrasts with the reality of the Halimi family's working-class circumstances; they and many other poor and working-class Jews inhabited the same lower-class banlieue as the attackers.[19][20]
  • The police reportedly found "Islamic fundamentalist and pro-Palestinian literature" during one arrest. However, the suspects are not known extremists, a police intelligence official said.[6]
  • Halimi's uncle Rafi told reporters that some of the telephone calls to the victim's family involved recitations from the Qur'an accompanied by Halimi's tortured screams.[21]
  • The French prime minister, Dominique de Villepin declared that the "odious crime"[22] was antisemitic, and that antisemitism is not acceptable in France.[21]

Other explanations

Police have attributed to the banlieues' gang subculture a "poisonous mentality that designates Jews as enemies along with other 'outsiders,'" such as Americans, mainstream French, and Europeans in general. "If they could have gotten their hands on a (non-Jewish) French cop in the same way, they probably would have done the same thing," a retired police chief opined.[6]

Reaction in France

The case has found an enormous echo in the French media and in the French public. Six French associations called for a mass demonstration against racism and antisemitism in Paris on Sunday, 26 February. Between 33,000 (as estimated by police) and 80,000 to 200,000 (as estimated by the organizers) people participated in Paris, as well as thousands around the country. Also present were public figures such as Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger and Lionel Jospin. Right-wing politician Philippe de Villiers was booed by far-left militants and had to leave under police guard.[23]

Criticism of Police Response

Ruth Halimi, Ilan's mother, subsequently co-authored a book with Emilie Freche entitled “24 Days” that was released in April 2009. In the book, Ruth claimed that French police never suspected her son's kidnappers would kill the 23-year-old after three weeks in captivity in 2006, partly because they would not face the anti-Semitic character of the crime, the French daily Le Figaro reported. In an interview with Le Figaro, Emilie Freche stated that “by denying the anti-Semitic character, [police] did not figure out the profile of the gang.” The book details how Ilan's parents were told to stay silent during the ordeal and were ordered not to seek aid in order to pay the ransom, nor show their son's photo to people who might have come forward with information about his whereabouts.[24]

In an interview with Elle Magazine on March 27, 2009, Ruth wrote that “The police were completely off the mark. They thought they were dealing with classic bandits, but these people were beyond the norm.” Halimi stated that she wrote the book to “alert public opinion to the danger of anti-Semitism which has returned in other forms, so that a story like this can never happen again.”[24]

Reactions outside of France

The event caused an international outcry.[25]

On May 9, the Helsinki Commission held a briefing titled "Tools for Combating Anti-Semitism: Police Training and Holocaust Education" chaired by Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) who said: "His tragedy made brutally clear that Jews are still attacked because they are Jews, and that our work to eradicate all forms of anti-Semitism in all its ugly forms and manifestations is far from done." [26]

Reburial in Israel

At the request of the family, the remains of Ilan Halimi were reburied in Har HaMenuchot cemetery [27] Israel on Friday, Feb. 9, 2007. [28]

It was timed to allow his first Yartzeit, on Tu Bishvat, to pass before the reburial.[29] The date and time (11:30am) also marked "exactly one year after his burial in France according to the Jewish Calendar."[30]

Mathieu Roumi

On February 22, 2008, six members of the "Barbarians" assaulted 19-year-old Mathieu Roumi in the same Paris suburb of Bagneux where Halimi was killed. For two hours the attackers tortured the young man. One shoved cigarette butts into his mouth, another took issue with Roumi's Jewish origin (paternal), grabbed correction fluid and scrawled "dirty Jew" and an anti-gay insult on his forehead. When the issue of his sexual orientation arose, one of them placed a condom on the tip of a stick and shoved it in Roumi's mouth. The six men proceeded to scream at him and threaten that he would die the way Halimi did. [4][5][6]

2009 Trial

The trial began Wednesday, April 29,[7] over three years [31] after the above events.

Notwithstanding requests for an open public trial by many, including Halimi's mother[32] and the family of key suspect Youssouf Fofana,[33], the trial, which is expected to last ten weeks, will be held behind closed doors.[7]

The judge defended his exclusion of the public and the media [34] by saying that two of the 27 suspects were juveniles at the time of the crime[35]. French law does not require open trials for juveniles.[36]

Fofana claimed in court that he had friends who would "take pictures to identify people." Francis Szpiner, lawyer for the Halimi family, believed that Fofana was alluding to the jurors, and was implying that he was going to put a price on their heads.[37]

When the judge refused to quiet Fofana, the Halimi family and their lawyer (who previously said "It was the law of silence that killed Ilan Halimi and it has imposed itself again" regarding the decision to bar journalists from the trial [38]) left the courtroom.[37]

Preliminary Information

A report dated approximately halfway into the trial's projected 10 weeks was headlined "Court tosses defendant in Halimi trial after he hurls shoes" and it noted that "reports about the trial are communicated through intermediaries who have access to the trial."[39]

Other reports indicate that, as a result of this incident, the judge suspended the trial.[40]

Subsequent reports dated about 2 weeks later indicate that the prosecution's counsel, Philippe Bilger, recommended life in prison for ring-leader Youssouf Fofana, 20 years for Fofana's two closest associates, and 12 years for the woman who lured Halimi to his death.[41]

Counsel for the Defense was reportedly scheduled to begin its presentations the following day.[42]

Verdict and Sentencing

On Friday [43], July 10, 2009, Fofana was sentenced to life, with minimum of 22 years of imprisonment [44].

Murder victim Ilan Halimi's mother and other Sabbath Observers were "absent from the court Friday night because of the Sabbath." [45] [46][47]

Sentences for the others varied, while verdicts for suspects who were minors at the time of the crime were not publicly disclosed[48]. Samir Aït Abdelmalek, 30, and Jean-Christophe Soumbou, 23, the two main accomplices, were sentenced to 18 and 15 years[49].

Also sentenced to 15 years was a third defendant, who was a minor at the time of the kidnap/murder [44].

Sorour Arbabzadeh aka "Yalda" [50] or "Emma", a then-17 year old French-Iranian girl who acted as a honeypot to lure Halimi into the gang's lair, was sentenced to 9 years[51].

The Verdict of this trial included acquittals for two of those on trial [52] and one or more suspended sentences [53].

On July 13 [54], French Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, in apparent response to complaints of lenient sentences – the balance of those on trial received six months to "several years" – called for a new trial of 14 of Fofana’s accomplices in the murder of Halimi. A decision on this was expected by July 20.

201x Trial

Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF, France's main Jewish organization, said that a law may soon be available that would preclude closed-door trials in this type of case [27]. "Perhaps in a year's time there will be a new trial, and perhaps it will be public."

A Halimi relative said: "The important thing for me is not handing out heavier jail terms, honestly. The important thing is to open this to the press and public and make it a learning experience."

The retrial was officially announced Monday, July 20, 2009 – on schedule.

Preliminary Information

According to media reports [55] [56], "Fourteen of 27 gang members convicted of abetting the murder of a French Jew will be retried." The basis is a filing focusing on "any sentence that was less than the state had sought." [57]

See also


  • 24 Days: The Truth about the death of Ilan Halimi, by his mother, Mrs. Ruth Halimi (co-authored by Emily Frêche)
  • If This Is A Jew: Reflections on the Death of Ilan Halimi, by Adrien Barrot, Jan. 2007, ISBN 978-2841863648


  1. ^ König, Yaël (March 20, 2006). "Entretien avec Ruth Halimi" (in (French)). Primo-Europe. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  2. ^ Fields, Suzanne (April 3, 2006). "The rising tide of anti-Semitism". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  3. ^ Suspects in death of French Jew face trial, Yedioth Ahronoth
  4. ^ a b Campbell, Matthew (April 2, 2006). "Barbarians of suburbs target French Jews". World News. London: Times Online. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  5. ^ Smith, Craig S. (March 5, 2006). "Torture and Death of Jew Deepen Fears in France". International. The New York Times.;ex=1142226000;amp=&pagewanted=all. Retrieved May 11, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Rotella, Sebastian; Achrene Sicakyuz (February 26, 2006). "Parisians Stare at the Evil Within". Los Angeles Times. pp. A-1. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  7. ^ a b c d Chrisafis, Angelique (April 29, 2009). "Trial opens into alleged gang kidnap, torture and murder of French Jew". World News. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  8. ^ see "The trial of Halimi's murderers is still ongoing, but it has not been suggested that their motives were 'Islamic' or that the gang was held together by Muslim cultural or religious hegemony." in Matt Carr, Christopher Caldwell dissected, 2009-07-02
  9. ^ has 4 siblings. Stole a car & beat its owner at age 19; served 2 years for this. Also had "run-ins" with police.
  10. ^ "Fofana, la confession scandale" (in (French)). Le Figaro. February 28, 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  11. ^ a b c Lévy, Alexandre (February 27, 2006). "La composition de la bande se précise, poursuite des interrogatoires de Fofana" (in (French)) (Abstract). Le Monde.,1-0,36-745450,0.html. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  12. ^ (see [1]) Liberation, 01 March 2006 (French)]
  13. ^ His name was not published in the initial accounts
  14. ^ (French) AFP, June 30, 2009
  15. ^ Bernard, Ariane; Craig S. Smith (February 23, 2006). "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-3-13. 
  16. ^ a b Bernard, Ariane; Craig S. Smith (February 23, 2006). "French Officials Now Say Killing of Jew Was in Part a Hate Crime". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  17. ^ "La police cherche encore des membres du gang" (in (French)). Le Figaro. February 27, 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  18. ^ Paris kidnap gang suspect arrested in Ivory Coast - World - Times Online
  19. ^
  20. ^,7340,L-3515340,00.html quotes Philippe Ovadia, the head of the Jewish community living in the very same lower-class area as the place where Halimi was held captive.
  21. ^ a b Nidra Poller, Poller, Nidra (February 26, 2006). "The Murder of Ilan Halimi". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2006-02-26. Retrieved 2007-03-23. ;
  22. ^ Rotella, Sebastian (February 21, 2006). "Anti-Semitism Is Alleged in French Torture-Killing". The World. The Los Angeles Times. pp. A.3. Retrieved 2007-03-23. 
  23. ^ L'Express
  24. ^ a b Murdered man’s mother blames police, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), April 2, 2009.
  25. ^ Rutgers University Students Pay Tribute to Hate-Crime Victim May 01, 2006
  26. ^ OSCE at 'Critical Point' in Fight Against Anti-Semitism Helsinki Commission Briefing Details Initiatives to Combat Intolerance. May 12, 2006
  27. ^ a b Trials and Tribulations, by Brett Kline, (c) JTA, The Jewish Herald, July 24, 2009, pp. 20-23
  28. ^ [2]
  29. ^
  30. ^ [3]
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Mother of slain French Jew Ilan Halimi calls for public trial". Jewish World. Haaretz. April 30, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  33. ^ DPA (April 29, 2009). "Anti-Semitic torture trial opens in Paris". Earthtimes.,anti-semitic-torture-trial-opens-in-paris.html. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  34. ^ after the trial, "Lawyers on both sides said that they regretted the move, saying the trial would have been instructive for society." (NY Times)
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ a b AP (April 30, 2009). "Family of Slain French Jew Walks Out of Murder Trial". World. Fox News.,2933,518501,00.html. Retrieved May 12, 2009. 
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ (European Jewish Press) reported: The verdict was handed down late on Friday – as Shabbat already started – by nine judges and a nine-member jury
  44. ^ a b Under French law, he is eligible for parole after 22 years.
  45. ^
  46. ^ states that the verdict was announced after 10:00 PM, and adds that the press was alerted that there would be news "before nightfall."
  47. ^ says: "State-owned France 3 TV unashamedly admitted that the verdict was announced during Shabbat in order to avoid incidents."
  48. ^
  49. ^ Youssouf Fofana jailed for the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi, Times Online, July 11, 2009
  50. ^ Supports what is said by for-some-reason-blacklisted site's /meaning-yalda-f49.html that the word can mean giving birth or Girl in some Middle Eastern languages, including Parsi/Farsi/Persian. The same meanings apply to Hebrew.
  51. ^ (French) Peine maximale pour le cerveau du «gang des barbares, Libération, 11/07/2009
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^,8599,1910386,00.html Fofana is not included, since he received the maximum sentence allowed by French law, with a minimum of 22 years to be served.

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