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Four Skinheads Detained in Jewish Cemetery Vandalism

May 12, 1990

AVINGNON, France (AP) _ Police detained four skinheads today in the desecration of a Jewish cemetery and mutilation of a corpse, acts that stunned the nation and prompted new fears of anti-Semitism.

Investigators went to the homes of the four youths at dawn and took them into custody. One was later released without being charged.

A fifth youth was questioned and released Friday.

Under the law, the skinheads must be arrested and charged or freed within 48 hours, and it appeared the detained youths might only be questioned.

One police officer said on condition of anonymity that it was unlikely Avignon skinheads were responsible for the desecration and speculated the vandals came from outside the area.

Thirty-four graves were found vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in nearby Carpentras on Thursday. The body of a recently buried 81-year-old man was dug up and impaled on an umbrella stick.

City council members in Carpentras voted to express their shock with a 15- minute ″city death″ on Sunday.

″The merchants will lower their shutters and drivers will stop their vehicles,″ said Mayor Jean-Claude Andrieu.

Interior Minister Pierre Joxe and other prominent politicians will be in town for the event, and President Francois Mitterrand said today he will send a representative.

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 claimed responsibility Friday for the crime in an anonymous phone call to a local newspaper. Police said they were trying to authenticate the call, but made no further comment.

The desecration has horrified France. On Friday, the Senate and National Assembly suspended their sessions for 15 minutes, and leaders of all major religious faiths condemned the attack.

Special radio and television shows were planned, and some channels devoted their entire evening newscasts to the subject.

Racism has for years been a major issue in France, which is home to more than 4 million immigrants, many from former North African and African colonies.

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