France eyes more jail time for "gang of barbarians"

PARIS Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:19pm BST

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's justice minister asked a prosecutor Monday to appeal for increased jail terms against members of a gang imprisoned last week for kidnapping a young Jewish man, torturing him and leaving him to die.

Youssouf Fofana, leader of a group calling itself the "gang of barbarians," was jailed for life Friday over the 2006 murder of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi -- the maximum penalty under French law, with a minimum period in jail of 22 years.

Twenty-four other members received sentences ranging from six months suspended to 18 years in prison. Two were acquitted.

Jewish organizations say they want stiffer punishment for the other gang members to give a strong signal to stem what they say is a rising tide of anti-Semitism in France.

"This morning, I asked the prosecutor from the Paris court of appeals to appeal against the sentences that were inferior to what was requested by the original prosecutor," Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

The gang abducted Halimi, unsuccessfully tried to extort a ransom, tortured him until he was close to death and then left him near a train station. He died shortly after he was found.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Tamora Vidaillet; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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