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French prison head Goncalves suspended over Halimi girl

13 January 11 11:22
Florent Goncalves, governor of Versailles women's prison (image from June 2010)

A French prison chief has been suspended over an alleged affair he had with a woman used as bait for a notorious anti-Semitic gang murder.

Prosecutors said Florent Goncalves, head of Versailles women's prison, was placed under investigation for passing money and other items to the inmate.

He is also accused of conducting a sexual relationship with her.

The prisoner is serving nine years for luring Ilan Halimi into a trap which saw him tortured and killed.

Aged 17 at the time of the murder in 2006, the French-Iranian was tried as a minor, and is usually named as "Emma" or "Yalda" in the French media.

Attention was drawn to Mr Goncalves, 41, during a prison inspection in November when other inmates complained of favouritism.

A source close to the case told France's Le Parisien newspaper that the favouritism probably related to advantageous prison jobs, and other inmates had not been aware of the prisoner's alleged sexual relations with the governor.

An internal investigation was launched and it was discovered that the prisoner had seduced both the governor and a guard, 36, in order to obtain parcels, money, and phone and Sim cards, the paper adds.

'He fell in love'

"The judge has forbidden [Mr Goncalves] to exercise his profession and even enter a penitentiary," prosecutor Michel Desplan said.

Mr Goncalves, the unnamed guard and the prisoner were all placed under investigation in Versailles this week and all made confessions, Le Parisien's source added.

"The governor explains that he fell in love," the source added. Their affair is said to have taken place between December 2009 and October 2010.

The guard, accused of supplying a Sim card to the prisoner, has also been suspended, while the inmate herself is being accused of concealment.

She was convicted in 2009 of delivering Mr Halimi to his abductors, a gang called the Barbarians.

The 23-year-old telephone salesman was held by the gang for more than three weeks before he was found dying by a railway line. He had been handcuffed to a tree, naked and badly burnt.

Gang leader Youssouf Fofana, who had targeted Jews because he supposed them to be wealthy, was jailed for a minimum of 22 years.

Anti-Semitism was cited as an aggravating factor when the gang was convicted, and the case kindled fear within France's Jewish community.

Mr Halimi was buried in Jerusalem.

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