French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.

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France detains 80 in unprecedented child sex crime swoop

Police in France have arrested dozens of men accused of child sex abuse in the largest operation of its kind ever conducted.

France detains 80 in unprecedented child sex crime swoop

Around 80 men, including a local councillor and two schoolteachers, were detained this week in France’s most far-reaching swoop on suspected child sex abusers, police sources said.

Police made arrests in 53 of France’s 101 departments, Commissioner Quentin Bevan told AFP on Saturday.

The men arrested, whose ages range from around 30 to over 60, come from a wide range of backgrounds, from an elected official to a person on the dole.

“There is no typical profile in child sex crime. It’s found in all walks of life,” Bevan said.

He heads the operational unit of the Office for Minors within the judicial police, which coordinated the operation.

The “unprecedented” swoop focused on professions where adults were in regular contact with children, the commissioner explained.

That enabled them to detain, among others, two teachers, several sports coaches and a monitor in a centre for disabled children.

One of the teachers possessed “photos and videos stolen from his pupils” and is suspected of sexually assaulting at least one of them, Bevan said. Around a dozen others are suspected of raping or sexually abusing minors.

The monitor in the centre for the disabled had been convicted of rape “several decades ago” but had been permitted to change his identity, which enabled him to have contact with children again, Bevan said.

“Online child sex abuse is not just about lone individuals trawling the internet… (Some) have gone on to commit crimes in real life or are on the verge of doing so,” he added.

“We’re not just talking about virtual images,” Martine Brousse, head of the Voice of the Child organisation, told BFM television.

“Vulnerable children have been raped and many have suffered acts of torture and barbarity.”

Police searches uncovered “more than 100,000” videos and photos on computers or hard drives.

Some were “extremely violent” and included “sexual acts on babies or children being sexually abused by animals”, Bevan said.

“It’s the worst kind of vile,” he said.

All the suspects admitted the facts presented to them while in police custody, although some tried to downplay them or deny responsibility. Some were in the process of destroying their computers with hammers when police arrived, Bevan said.

Of the total, 51 men have appeared in court, of whom 13 have been jailed. Another 38 are under court supervision. The remainder have been released pending further examination of the evidence. The interior ministry said investigations were continuing.