French teens on trial over killing of former schoolmate

The trial has begun in France of two teenagers accused of having bullied and beaten a former school friend before dumping her unconscious body into a river, where she drowned.

French teens on trial over killing of former schoolmate
In this file photo taken on March 14, 2021 people take part in a white march in memory of a 14-year-old Alisha (portait) whose beaten body was found in the Seine river after she endured online harassment at school, in Argenteuil, near Paris. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

The 14-year-old victim from the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, named only as Alisha, was found in the Seine river in March 2021.

Prosecutors say the two suspected killers, a boy and a girl aged 15 at the time who cannot be named as they are underage, were her former friends who had been expelled from school for bullying her online and in person.

After Alisha met the girl near a motorway bridge over the river, they were joined by the boy who “hit her by surprise in the face, yanked her hair and slapped her so hard she fell to the ground,” the investigators found.

The two then dumped her into the river “to get rid of the traces of the violence they had committed”.

They then returned to the boy’s home, changed clothes – his were covered in blood – and went out to eat in central Paris.

But they had told the whole story to the boy’s mother, who herself called the police.

The youth court, holding its hearings behind closed doors until Thursday, could sentence the pair to up to 20 years in jail for the murder.

As well as physical and verbal abuse, the suspects are accused of harassing Alisha over pictures of her in underwear that were stolen from her phone and posted on social network Snapchat days before.

Prosecutors said she was the victim of a form of “revenge porn” – in which exes share intimate images of their former partners online to cause emotional harm.

The killing prompted an outpouring of support for Alisha’s family and indignation over cyber-bullying from across France.

More than 2,000 people marched in her memory days after the killing was discovered, with her mother saying that Alisha was “very serious at school” and dreamed of becoming an accountant.

Her parents and one of her siblings were at the trial with a large portrait of Alisha on Monday, an AFP journalist reported.

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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.