PARIS, June 20 — The gang rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl sparked nationwide outrage in France with President Emmanuel Macron yesterday condemning the “scourge” of anti-Semitism after two 13-year-old boys were charged.

Amid recriminations between rival political parties campaigning for a national election later this month, hundreds took part in demonstrations against anti-Semitism in Paris and Lyon.

The girl told police she was approached by three boys aged between 12 and 13 whilst in a park near her home in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday evening, police sources said.

She was dragged into a shed where the suspects beat her and “forced” her to have sex “while uttering death threats and anti-Semitic remarks”, one police source told AFP.

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The girl said she had been called a “dirty Jew”, another police source said.

One boy asked her questions about “her Jewish religion” and Israel, the source added, citing the child’s statement to investigators.

The rape was filmed by one boy and another threatened to kill the girl if she told authorities about her ordeal, police sources said.

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Minors charged

A friend who was with her in the park identified two of the attackers and three boys were arrested on Monday. Two of them, both aged 13, were charged on Tuesday with gang rape, anti-Semitic insults and violence, and issuing death threats. They have been taken into custody.

The third boy, 12, was charged with anti-Semitic insults and violence and issuing death threats, but not with rape. He was allowed to return home.

The prosecution service said in a statement that the accused boys had “expressed regret towards the victim without discussing their implication in the facts” of the case.

France has the largest Jewish community of any country outside Israel and the United States as well as Europe’s largest Muslim community. There has been a surge in anti-Semitic acts since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel set off the Gaza war.

“Raped at 12 because she was Jewish”, said one banner at a demonstration in central Paris where Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti was among well-known figures to take part.

Macron told a cabinet meeting of government ministers that the “scourge of anti-Semitism” was threatening French schools, a source close to the president said.

The source said the president called for “dialogue” about racism and hatred of Jews in schools to prevent “hate speech with serious consequences” from “infiltrating” classrooms.

Far-right figurehead Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally party is tipped to make major gains in the election, slammed the “extreme left” for “stigmatising Jewish people” since the Israel-Hamas war started.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of the hard left France Unbowed (LFI) party, who has been accused of minimising the importance of anti-Jewish attacks, condemned “anti-Semitic racism”.

The head of France’s Jewish Central Consistory, Elie Korchia, condemned what he called “a sordid and unworthy sexual crime” while the country’s chief rabbi Haim Korsia said he was “horrified” and that “no one should be excused in the face of this unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism”.

Courbevoie’s centre-right mayor Jacques Kossowski condemned “an abject act” and called for the perpetrators to be met with the full force of the law “whatever their age”.

Anti-Semitic acts in France increased threefold in the first months of 2024 compared to the same period a year ago, official figures show.

Of the 1,676 anti-Semitic acts recorded in 2023, 12.7 per cent took place in schools. — AFP