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Slain Jewish man's family leaves trial

PARIS, April 30 (UPI) -- The family of a man allegedly tortured and killed for being Jewish left a Paris courtroom Thursday to protest the judge's handling of the trial, a lawyer said.

Ilan Halimi's family walked out after Youssouf Fofana, the suspected ringleader of 27 young people on trial for killing Halimi, 23, made intimidating comments, saying he had friends in the courtroom who would "take pictures to identify people," Halimi family lawyer Francis Szpiner said to The Times of London.

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When the judge refused to silence Fofana, the family and their lawyers walked out, Szpiner said.

The trial, closed to the public because two suspects were minors at the time of the killing, is expected to last 2 1/2 months.

Fofana, 28, admits to kidnapping Halimi but denies stabbing him to death, The Times reported.

Halimi was kidnapped Jan. 20, 2006, tied up in a cellar and tortured for 24 days in the suburb of Bagneux, the newspaper said. His kidnappers tried unsuccessfully to extort a $600,000 ransom from his family.

Halimi was found naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks near railroad tracks south of Paris Feb. 13, 2006. He died en route to a hospital.

Fofana faces life in prison because charges against him include anti-Semitism, an "aggravating circumstance" requiring the stiffest sentences under French law.

Several members of his "gang of barbarians" testified Halimi was targeted because he was Jewish, which they felt meant he had money and his community would pay to get him back, The Times said.

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