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July 9, 2018 11:14 am

French Court Convicts Antisemitic Gang for Brutal Robbery, Rape of Jewish Couple in 2014

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Demonstrators rally in Paris against antisemitism, March 2018. Photo: Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes.

Three members of an antisemitic gang who robbed a young Jewish couple in Paris in 2014, and raped their female victim during the ordeal, have been convicted by a French court.

Abdou Salam Koita, 26, and Ladje Haidara, 23, were sentenced to eight and 13 years in jail respectively for their part in the crime. Houssame Hatri, 22 — the ringleader of the five-member gang who remains on the run from French authorities — was handed a 16-year sentence. The other two accomplices received five and six years each from the court in Val-de-Marne, near Paris, on Friday.

The brutal assault on the young couple, named in the French press as Jonathan B., 21, and Laurine C., 19, occurred on the morning of Dec. 1, 2014. Expecting a mail delivery, Jonathan answered the door to the apartment and three of the gang members — Hatri, Koita and Haidara — burst in. Over the next 90 minutes, the three hooded men subjected the couple to a violent and humiliating attack punctuated by frequent aggressive references to their being Jewish.

The couple were tied up and violently beaten, with one gang member forcing a sawn-off shotgun into Jonathan’s mouth, breaking his teeth. Insisting that “Jews don’t keep money in the bank,” and “We know your father is Jewish,” the three men demanded to know where the family kept a supply of cash. They smashed up the apartment, making a point of overturning the many Jewish religious objects and symbols on display. At one point, Hatri pinned Jonathan to the floor and dropped knives on his back, telling him, “This is for my brothers in Palestine.”

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Eventually, the gang took Jonathan’s credit card to a nearby ATM, where they withdrew approximately $500. The couple were also assailed with misogynistic taunts as Laurine was raped by one of the gang.

In harrowing testimony to the court at the end of June, Jonathan revealed that the ordeal “destroyed our lives, causing enormous personal and professional damage.” After a three-month break from work, Jonathan was fired from his job. Soon after, he and Laurine — who was left severely traumatized by the rape and did not deliver her court testimony in  person — separated. “We didn’t know how to talk to each other anymore,” Jonathan reflected.

“The images come back very often at the slightest sound, at the slightest slamming of the door,” Jonathan said. “It’s even harder to realize that you’ve been assaulted because you are Jewish.”

Jonathan added that he was testifying so that “people realize what is happening in France, next to their own homes.”

The December 2014 attack was followed by a solidarity march in Creteil at which the then-Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, declared the fight against antisemitism to be a “national cause.” Since then, however, the French Jewish community has experienced several outrages, including a terrorist siege at a kosher supermarket in January 2015 that resulted in four deaths, and the shocking murders of Jewish pensioners Sarah Halimi in April 2017 and Mireille Knoll in March 2018.

Meanwhile, antisemitic attacks in France surged in 2017, with 92 violent incidents reported — a 28-percent increase on the previous year.

The trial of the gang  also saw lengthy arguments between lawyers as to whether the men were motivated by hatred of Jews, or merely “ignorant.” The court heard that when police questioned one of the defendants about his lengthy criminal record, he answered that the director of the prison in which he had spent four years “is a Jew.”

Asked how he knew this, the defendant replied, “I can see it in her eyes.”

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