PARIS (Jun. 11)
Four upper-middle-class youths were arrested Monday in Carpentras and will be charged with the desecration of the Jewish cemetery on the night of May 9-10 in that city of 30,000 in southern France, the police announced.
The identities of the suspects are being withheld because all are minors. Two of the four are high-school students.
The police, calling the arrests a major breakthrough, said the youths belong to uppermiddle-class families and have no known connections with neo-Nazi or other extremist movements.
The arrests were made at dawn at the homes of the suspects in a residential district of Carpentras, the police said.
They culminated a monthlong investigation of a crime that outraged world opinion for its savage racism and triggered a series of allegedly copycat incidents at Jewish cemeteries elsewhere in France and in other countries.
The vandals overturned 34 gravestones at the Carpentras cemetery, one of the oldest Jewish burial grounds still in use in Europe, and smeared them with anti-Semitic graffiti.
They also exhumed a recently buried corpse and, according to the initial reports, impaled it on an umbrella handle.
But the local district attorney, Monique Guermann, said last week that the corpse was not impaled, though “there was probably an attempt to do so.”
Police said the young suspects were in the habit of meeting at the cemetery at least once or a week for drinking parties and possibly orgies.
The arrests removed suspicion from Jean-Marie Le Pen’s extreme right-wing National Front. But political commentators said that even if Le Pen’s group did not commit the outrage, it was responsible for the “sick racist climate which led to it.”