The incident of brutal abuse began at 10 A.M. on February 22. Mathieu Roumi, 19, whose father is Jewish, was strolling through his neighborhood in the Paris suburb of Bagneux, which has been the site of violent riots by immigrants in the past two years. The suburb became notorious as the scene of Ilan Halimi's 2006 murder, which horrified France.
Roumi ran into two youths he knew. They discussed a sum of money that he supposedly owed them. An argument ensued, after which they beat him and, with the help of a third friend, dragged him to a dark basement. The three assailants were joined by three other youths, all neighborhood residents and neighbors of Roumi.
For two hours the attackers tortured the young man. One shoved cigarette butts into his mouth, another took issue with Roumi's Jewish origin, grabbed correction fluid and scrawled "dirty Jew" on his forehead. The six men proceeded to scream at him and threaten that he would die the way Halimi did.
They identified themselves as members of the "Barbarians," the same gang that kidnapped Halimi from his store, demanded ransom for his release, and when that was not forthcoming, tortured the 23-year-old over the course of three weeks. Moments after he was dumped on the street, Halimi died.
Roumi told police investigators that throughout his ordeal, his assailants employed measures with sexual and sadistic connotations. 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.
"We admire Youssouf Fofana!" they shouted at him, referring to the leader of the gang that murdered Halimi. Fofana and 29 other suspects are on trial for abduction, torture and murder. If convicted, they can expect a life sentence.
Roumi's life was spared because one of the assailants, who owned the basement space, had to leave and take the key with him. Roumi was set free and returned home, battered and broken. When he got to his parent's home, they sent him immediately for a medical examination.
The next day Roumi went to the police. In a matter of hours, the six assailants were arrested. Most are in their 20s, two come from Muslim homes, two are "fully" French, and another two are African and Portuguese immigrants. They told interrogators that they had not meant to hurt Roumi.
Sami Gozlan, a former police investigator appointed by the Jewish community to monitor anti-Semitic incidents, visited the Roumi family the day after the incident.
"The family was in a terrible state," he told Haaretz Wednesday. "The father was weeping like a baby and couldn't believe that such a thing could happen to his son in France. The mother was also deeply upset. They told me that their younger children were forced to stay with relatives outside the neighborhood. Mathieu himself is still in shock."
"Sadly the lesson of Halimi's murder has not been learned," Gozlan added. "The fact that angry immigrant youth can kidnap a Jew in broad daylight and abuse him proves that the lesson has yet to be learned."
Jewish organizations condemned the attack and urged the authorities to increase police vigilance in mixed immigrant neighborhoods, where fear of attacks against Jews runs especially high.
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