Ilan Halimi and the 'Gang of Barbarians'
10 July 2009
The BBC website reports on the trial in France of Youssouf Fofana and 26 other gang members, accused of the murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006. The jurors are soon to give their verdicts on charges including kidnap, torture, premeditated murder and antisemitism.
Fofana's behaviour during the investigation and trial has been bizarre, to say the least:
Prosecutors describe Mr Fofana as "a perverted, immature megalomaniac".
After Mr Halimi's death, he fled to Ivory Coast where he is reported to have made death threats by telephone to Mr Halimi's family.
He was extradited to France in March 2006 and initially admitted murder. But since then he has repeatedly changed his plea, and his legal team.
He has also bombarded the magistrates investigating the case with letters full of anti-Semitic insults.
In court he tried repeatedly to justify his actions by citing "the suffering of the Palestinians and Africa".
But lawyers claim Mr Fofana has a fuzzy knowledge of the Muslim faith. He was unable to explain the difference between a Sunni and Shia Muslim and could not recite verses from the Koran.
Expelled from court in June for throwing his shoes at lawyers, Mr Fofana has often refused to answer questions.
But 24 days into his trial, he was asked about the fatal blows that Mr Halimi suffered and he yelled: "Yes, it's me that did it! You know very well that I did it!"
At the start of proceedings, Mr Fofana was required by the court to give his birth date.
He declared that he was born on 13 February 2006 in Sainte Genevieve des Bois - the date and place of Mr Halimi's death.
This was an appalling crime, whether motivated by antisemitism, criminality or a combination of the two. There has been plenty of discussion on this point, but Fofana's behaviour suggests that it is too difficult, and perhaps a little futile, to try to reach a neat conclusion what can only be a matter of emphasis, or even mood; and whatever the answer, it does not change the horror of the ordeal to which Ilan Halimi, and his family, were subjected.