The mobile phone shop in Paris where Ilan Halimi worked
Photo: Shirli Sitbon
More than 1,000 Jews marched in the streets of Paris on Sunday, demanding justice for Ilan Halimi, the 23-year-old Jewish man who was abducted, tortured and killed near Paris by an organised and dangerous gang last week.
Information on the demonstration circulated within the Jewish community through mobile phone and e-mail messages, although the spontaneous gathering failed to get support from any Jewish organizations.
Marchers walked down Voltaire Boulevard, past the mobile-phone store where Ilan Halimi used to work and where was approached by his killers a month ago.
During the protest young demonstrators shouted “Justice for Ilan”, “revenge of Ilan”, “Fofana murderer”, a reference to Youssef Fofana, the head of the gang who is still at large.
Jews from every age and background participated in the walk under heavy rain.
Many of them were holding leaflets with Ilan Halimi’s picture, the only
photography the Halimi family accepted to give out to the press, and only to Jewish and Israeli media.
Police blamed for incidents
A few incidents occurred at the end of the gathering. A driver forced his way through the demonstrators and was chased down by dozens of young men who damaged the vehicle.
The police were blamed because it didn’t prevent cars from circulating down the Boulevard.
Damaged car during the demonstration
Photo: Shirli Sitbon
A member of the Lubavitch community addressed the crowd with a loud speaker and said “We are being mocked. Nobody takes us seriously. How much longer is this going to last? May the Messiah arrive soon.”
The crowd ended its tribute to Ilan Halimi by saying the Kaddish prayer and observing a minute of silence in front of the mobile phone store where he used to work.
While until now three of the 13 people arrested have been indicted, French police were still hunting for Youssef Fofana, a 26-yar-old black African man, considered as the mastermind of the kidnapping ring suspected of using charming women to lure Ilan Halimi to his death.
Fofana, who nicknames himself "Brain of Barbarians, is described as "extremely dangerous."
The gang is suspected of abducting the 23-year-old Parisian, and
subjecting him to horrific tortures before dumping his naked and mutilated body in the street near a suburban train station last Monday.
Handcuffed, gagged and covered in burns and torture marks, he died on the way to hospital.
Twelve suspects, aged 17 to 32, were held in overnight raids in the south Paris suburbs, most on a housing estate in Bagneux, while a 13th was arrested in Belgium, Paris state prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin told a press conference on Friday.
Halimi went missing in late January after agreeing to a date with an
unknown woman who approached him at his workplace.
Using beautiful women as "bait", the gang are thought to have attempted six or seven other botched kidnappings, Marin said.
Halimi’s abduction has sent a shockwave through France’s Jewish community, since Halimi and several other targets were Jewish, leading France’s Jewish community umbrella group, the CRIF, to issue an appeal for calm and caution on Friday.
But “uneasiness” was perceptible in the Paris synagogues over Shabbat, according to informed sources.
On the eve of the annual CRIF dinner, which reunites the main French political leaders and Jewish community dignitaries on Monday night, many Jews are expecting that they pay tribute to the memory of Ilan Halimi.
Jewish organizations have called for another demonstration next Sunday in the Paris suburb city of Bagneux where Ilan Halimi was detained and tortured by his kidnappers.
“We call on Jews and non-Jews to come and meditate on the place where such unacceptable atrocities happened. When cruelty reaches such high level, we must say enough,” says an e-mail circulating within the Jewish community.
“We will ask that a memorial plaque be set on the place where he was tortured to death because he was a Jew,” it added.