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Pupils at French religious school removed over abuse claims

French social services have taken 42 pupils from an ultra-orthodox Jewish religious school near Paris into care, local authorities said on Tuesday, as the institution faced allegations of years of abuse.

Pupils at French religious school removed over abuse claims
Police are investigating the claims. Illustration photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

The Beth Yossef school in Bussieres, around 60 kilometres east of the capital, was hosting “many underage American and Israeli children who do not speak French in abusive conditions”, said Laureline Peyrefitte, prosecutor in nearby Meaux.

The children, aged 12 and above, allegedly suffered “being locked up, confiscation of their identity documents, poor conditions, acts of abuse, lack of access to education and healthcare, and no possibility of returning to their families,” she added.

Authorities in the Seine-et-Marne department said in a statement that the children were placed in temporary care after being removed from the school, set apart from the village on its own grounds.

Police are also holding 16 of the school’s staff.

An American boy escaped from the school in July and sought shelter at the US embassy in Paris.

Others followed, and Israeli public television has been investigating the school for months.

“We found ourselves with around 30 witness accounts dating back to the 2000s from former pupils saying they suffered violence,” documentary filmmaker Dubi Kroitoru told AFP.

The journalists sent all their information to French police in July.

To relatives, “it seemed like the Harry Potter school, out in the green spaces,” said Jerusalem resident Rivka Azoulay, 26, whose 13-year-old brother had started at Beth Yossef just last week.

In conversations from a payphone at the school, the boy had so far seemed “happy”, Azoulay added, complaining that the French authorities had not been in touch with families.

France’s chief rabbi Haim Korsia told AFP: “It’s unacceptable for children’s lives to be put in danger, the charges are terrible.”

“The conditions they were living in are unacceptable, full stop,” he added.

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CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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