PARIS (JTA) — The leader of the gang responsible for torturing and murdering a French Jew received the maximum sentence for a crime judges ruled anti-Semitic.
Youssouf Fofana was sentenced Friday to life in prison and 22 years without parole for organizing the gang kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006.
The verdict is the most severe permitted under French law.
Though Halimi family lawyer Francis Szpiner told French journalists he was “pleased” the Paris court “recognized the anti-Semitic character of the crime,” he and leaders of the French Jewish community criticized the lighter sentences given to fellow members of Fofana’s gang, the Barbarians.
Szpiner said he regretted the court “showed a particular indulgence for those who aided and abetted Fofana in his crime,” and he called on France’s justice minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, to appeal the verdict.
Two of Fofana’s lieutenants who played particularly active roles in the 24-day torture of Halimi were sentenced to 15- and 18-year prison terms. The public prosecutor had asked for 20.
The young woman known as “Emma,” who was used to lure Halimi to his attackers, was sentenced to 9 years of jail time rather than 12. The young woman was under 18 at the time of the crime and did not notify police during Halimi’s three-week detention.
Of the 26 suspects on trial over the past two months, two gang members were acquitted and others received sentences ranging from 6 months to 18 years in prison.
The general prosecutor in the case told French journalists that the court’s final decision was “fair.”
On Sunday, the National Bureau of Vigilance said it would hold a protest rally near the minister’s headquarters to demand an appeal and protest “the unacceptable and revolting verdict.”
At the verdict announcement, Fofana simulated applause, according to French reports.
The Jewish umbrella organization CRIF also criticized the court’s decision, calling it “too lenient” toward Fofana’s accomplices. CRIF also regretted that the trial was kept closed to journalists, a condition that "withdrew the exemplary and educational value that [the trial] should have had.”
Halimi was found at the point of death, naked and bound by railroad tracks outside of Paris in February 2006.