Family of Slain French Jew Walks Out of Murder Trial

The family of a Jewish man tortured and killed in 2006 walked out of a tense Paris trial Thursday in anger over comments by the man accused of murdering him, the family's lawyer said.

Twenty-seven young people are on trial in the case, which drew nationwide attention and raised concerns about anti-Semitism. The victim's family says Ilan Halimi was killed because he was Jewish.

The group's suspected ringleader, Youssouf Fofana, said he had friends in the court "to take pictures to identify people. Some thought he was alluding to the jurors, saying he had the means to put a price on their heads," said Francis Szpiner, lawyer for the Halimi family.

The family was angry that the judge refused to quiet Fofana, and decided to leave the courtroom. The Halimis' lawyers joined them in the walkout.

"We will reflect on whether we plan to participate in this trial or not," Szpiner said.

The proceedings are closed to the public because two of the suspects were minors at the time of Halimi's killing, and officials could not confirm the details of Fofana's comments.

Halimi, 23, was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris on Feb. 13, 2006. He died en route to the hospital after being held captive for more than three weeks.

Fofana was defiant when the trial opened Tuesday, declaring, "Allah will be victorious." He is charged with premeditated murder, demanding ransom, and acts of torture and barbarism, and faces a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Critics say police initially ignored evidence of anti-Semitic motives in the killing, which caught the attention of senior government officials and prompted fear of a resurgent anti-Semitism in France.

The trial is to last until July 10.