French teens face preliminary charges in cemetery vandalism

AP News
Posted: Feb 18, 2015 4:56 PM
French teens face preliminary charges in cemetery vandalism

PARIS (AP) — Five teens accused of vandalizing a Jewish cemetery faced preliminary charges Wednesday after the prosecutor said an "anti-Semitic motive" in the destruction seemed clear.

Prosecutor Philippe Vannier described the group as having been overcome by a sort of "collective frenzy" when they desecrated about 250 graves and a Holocaust memorial at the cemetery in Sarre-Union, in France's Alsace region. He said they called out anti-Semitic epithets and proffered Nazi salutes during the incident.

Vannier said all had admitted a role in the destruction, discovered Sunday, and recommended preliminary charges against them.

The vandalism comes amid deep unease among French Jews after the deadly attacks last month on a kosher market in Paris and last week at a synagogue in Copenhagen. Many have heeded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call for a mass immigration, and France's president vowed at Sarre-Union to protect the community and all who feel under threat because of their religious or ethnic identity.

Following the desecration at Sarre-Union, two other French cemeteries — neither of them Jewish — were also vandalized to a far lesser extent. France's Interior Ministry said crucifixes were overturned and gravesites disturbed in Tracy-sur-Mer, a tiny town next to the D-Day landing beaches, and in Saint-Beat, in southwest France. Swastikas were found in two other widely separated towns, the ministry said Wednesday.

There have been no arrests in the other cases.