France: torture-killing sparks anti-racist march

From AP via the Glasgow Herald, Feb. 27:

Tens of of thousands of demonstrators, including ministers and politicians of all stripes, united in a show of force against racism and anti-Semitism yesterday, marching through the capital after the torture and killing of a Parisian Jew.

About 33,000 people took part, police said. Philippe de Villiers, whose right-wing Movement for France blames immigration for France’s social ills, was ejected by a crowd with punches and boos.

Smaller marches took place in other cities, including Lyon and Bordeaux.

Ilam Halimi, 23, a mobile phone salesman, was kidnapped last month and tortured for three weeks, allegedly by a gang in the suburb of Bagneux. He was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burns near a railway line and died on his way to hospital.

On the funeral, from AP Feb. 25:

FRENCH President Jacques Chirac, politicians and religious leaders packed into a Paris synagogue yesterday to mourn a Jewish man whose brutal murder has revived concerns of anti-Semitism.

In Bagneux, the southern Paris suburb where Ilan Halimi was held for three weeks and tortured, several hundred people also joined a silent march, bearing a banner marked, “For Ilan, Bagneux against barbarism, anti-Semitism and racism”.

“We are all Jewish tonight,” town councillor Stephane Jaffrezic said.

Neither Mr Chirac nor Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin addressed the hour-long synagogue memorial ceremony.

But a Jewish leader, Joel Mergui, hailed their presence and that of other politicians as “a strong symbol”.

France’s Grand Rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, described Mr Halimi’s death as a watershed, saying: “From now on, in France, there will be the period before Ilan and that after Ilan.

“Today, I ask all French citizens to all stand up as one man and shout loud and clear, ‘Enough is enough.’ ”

The head of France’s biggest Muslim organisation, the archbishop of Paris, three ministers, and the leader of the opposition Socialists were among the more than 1000 people in attendance.

“National solidarity is being expressed,” Mr de Villepin said said after the ceremony.

Mr Halimi, a 23-year-old mobile phone salesman, was kidnapped on January 21.

He was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks on February 13 near railway tracks south of Paris. He died on the way to hospital.

“He was tortured in a home, then in a boiler room in our town, and most of the suspects are from Bagneux,” the town’s mayor Marie-Helene Amiable said at the silent march.

The lead suspect in killing, Youssouf Fofana, was arrested on Wednesday in Ivory Coast in Africa, and was expected to be repatriated to France within days.

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo called on Ivorian police to expedite the extradition, noting that Fofana was French, not Ivorian. Fofana flew to Ivory Coast days after Mr Halimi’s body was discovered.

Mr Halimi was kidnapped after a meeting with a young woman.

His family later received ransom demands.

More than a dozen people have been arrested.

See our last post on France.