A fugitive who was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment by a French court for his role in a chilling antisemitic attack on a young Jewish couple in Paris in 2014 was arrested in Algeria last month, according to French intelligence sources.
The man, 24-year-old Houssame Hatri a French-Algerian dual national, was brought into custody by Algerian police in the northwestern city of Maghnia on July 23.
Hatri had escaped from France before his sentence was pronounced in July 2018, following a trial in which the harrowing details of the attack on the home of a Jewish couple in the Créteil district of Paris were laid out before the court.
Hatri’s two cohorts in the attack, Abdou Salam Koita and Ladje Haidara, were sentenced to eight and 13 years in prison respectively.
According to French news agency reports on Wednesday morning, Hatri was tracked down in Algeria in January of this year by agents of the BNRF, the French security agency responsible for hunting fugitives.
The BNRF is understood to have monitored Hatri’s phone calls and online communications with friends and associates in France. The Algerian police were reported to have been tailing Hatri for four months prior to his July arrest.
The brutal assault on the young couple, named in the French press as Jonathan B., 21, and Laurine C., 19, occurred on the morning of Dec. 1, 2014. Expecting a mail delivery, Jonathan answered the door to the apartment and Hatri, Koita and Haidara burst in. Over the next 90 minutes, the three hooded men subjected the couple to a violent and humiliating attack punctuated by frequent aggressive references to their being Jewish.
The couple were tied up and violently beaten, with one gang member forcing a sawn-off shotgun into Jonathan’s mouth, breaking his teeth.
Insisting that “Jews don’t keep money in the bank,” and “We know your father is Jewish,” the three men demanded to know where the family kept a supply of cash.
They smashed up the apartment, with Hatri making a point of destroying the many Jewish religious objects and symbols on display as he joked about “gassing” his victims.
At one point during the ordeal, Hatri pinned Jonathan to the floor and dropped knives on his back, telling him, “This is for my brothers in Palestine.” Laurine was then forcibly taken to a separate room of the apartment, where she was raped by one of the gang.
Though the attack on the couple was one of several outrages in which French Jews have been targeted with extreme violence, often resulting in death, during the last 20 years, their shocking experience resonated with the wider public, with the then-Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve declaring that the fight against antisemitism had become a “national cause” for his government.
Hatri will not face extradition to France, however. According to an unnamed intelligence source quoted by the AFP news agency, Hatri will instead be tried in Algeria, under the terms of a 2019 extradition agreement between the the two countries in which neither country is compelled to return its nationals to the other.
One French intelligence source was quoted as expressing confidence in Algeria’s willingness to prosecute and sentence Hatri.
“It’s a good signal from the Algerian authorities,” the source asserted. “It sends a message to many criminals who carry out their acts in France and then go into hiding in Algeria: from now on, they can no longer live on the quiet.”