Court sentences 16 over murder of Ilan Halimi
Appeals court near Paris hears appeals of defendants already convicted by a lower court into the slaying of Halimi.
A French appeals court on Friday upheld the convictions of 16 people for their roles in the 2006 kidnapping, torture and murder of Parisian Jew Ilan Halimi, handing down sentences of up to 18 years in prison.
The appeals court in Creteil near Paris heard appeals of defendants already convicted by a lower court into the slaying of Halimi, who was lured by a young woman and then abducted and killed.
The ringleader, Youssouf Fofana, was not on trial in the proceedings that began Oct. 25. He chose not to appeal his conviction and life sentence.
Two of his close associates, Jean-Christophe Soumbou and Samir Ait Abdel Malek, were sentenced to 18 years behind bars in the verdict Friday. A state prosecutor had sought 20 years for each. Malek had previously been sentenced to 15 years; Soumbous' penalty was unchanged.
The appeals proceedings took place behind closed doors because two of the defendants were minors at the time. Minors are not publicly identified when tried in court under French law.
A nine-year sentence was upheld against the young woman who had taken part in luring Halimi into the gang's custody. She was once of the two minors when the crimes occurred.
Six people who took part in kidnapping Halimi received sentences of 12 to 15 years. Seven others received sentences ranging from eight months to 11 years in prison, which was given to one woman who recruited others to act as bait for kidnappings. An apartment building guard who made available the room where Halimi was held got 10 years.
One of the 17 defendants on trial was acquitted.
Halimi, 23, was held captive for over three weeks. He was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks south of Paris on Feb. 13, 2006. He died on the way to the hospital.
The case revived worries in France about anti-Semitism, which is considered the main motive of those involved in the killing. It has led to deep anxiety in France's Jewish community - the largest in Western Europe.
Twenty-four people, including eight women, were convicted in the original trial last year on a variety of charges, including kidnapping by an organized group and failing to assist a person in danger.
Fofana, a Frenchman of Ivory Coast descent, was accused of five other kidnappings attempt. When he was convicted by the lower court, he brashly flashed a thumbs-up sign.
Disturbances that he had caused while a witness in the appeal led to a temporary suspension of the proceedings.