3,000 Protest Desecration of Jewish Cemetery
CARPENTRAS, France (AP) _ About 3,000 people Saturday protested the desecration of a Jewish cemetery and mutilation of a corpse while police questioned four skinheads in connection with the crime.
The protesters forcefully expelled a Jewish member of the far-right National Front party from the demonstration.
″I am French before I am Jewish,″ declared Fernand Teboul, a city council member from nearby Ile de Sourges, as he was led away. ″I regret there are not more Jews in the National Front.″
Thirty-four graves were found vandalized at the cemetery on Thursday. The body of a recently buried 81-year-old man was dug up and impaled on an umbrella.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the Front, has been accused by some politicians of implicit responsibility for the crime by creating an atmosphere of racial hatred against Jews and Arabs. Le Pen has denounced the desecration.
Le Pen favors expelling the 3.4 million Moslems living in France and once called the Nazi Holocaust ″a detail″ of history.
″Stop this racist barbarism,″ Pierre Danquigny, a regional anti-racism leader, said at the protest. ″We must stop playing the game of democracy with those who flout it.″
Some protesters wore yellow Stars of David to evoke badges the Nazis forced Jews to wear during World War II.
Police arrested the four skinheads at dawn in nearby Avignon. By the end of the day all had been released without being charged. A fifth youth was questioned and released Friday.
One police officer said on condition of anonymity it was unlikely the youths were responsible for the desecration and speculated the vandals were members of far-right groups from nearby cities.
City council members in Carpentras announced a 15-minute ″city death″ on Sunday during which shop owners will lower their shutters and drivers will stop their vehicles, said Mayor Jean-Claude Andrieu.
Interior Minister Pierre Joxe and other prominent politicians plan to attend the event. President Francois Mitterrand said he would send a representative.
Jews have lived in Carpentras for about 2,000 years. On Saturday, the approximately 80 Jewish families now living there celebrated the Sabbath behind closed doors.
The Regional Council of Auvergne, presided over by former president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, donated $17,000 to Carpentras to repair the graves.
Police have imposed a news blackout on their investigation, and little was known about the detained youths. Skinheads sympathize with neo-Nazi groups and generally have shaved heads or closed-croped hair and wear bomber jackets and steel-toed boots. Many also have swastika tattoos.
The previously unknown Mohamed El Boukima Group on Friday claimed responsibility in an anonymous phone call to a local newspaper. Police said they were trying to authenticate the call.