France seeks extradition of French-Israeli hacker for death following phone hoax

French investigators looking to put Gregory Chelli on trial for pranking parents of left-wing journalist, whose father suffered deadly heart attack days later

French-Israeli hacker Gregory Chelli speaks to the then Channel 2 in 2017. (screen capture: Channel 2)
French-Israeli hacker Gregory Chelli speaks to Channel 2 in 2017. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

PARIS — French prosecutors on Tuesday ordered infamous French-Israeli hacker Ulcan to stand trial over a telephone prank targeting the father of a French journalist who died soon after of a heart attack.

The 36-year-old hacker, whose real name is Gregory Chelli and who has been living in Israel for the past few years, carried out the prank to take revenge on a journalist from the left-wing news site Rue 89 for a profile of him he found unflattering.

In August 2014, he hacked the phone line of the parents of journalist Benoit Le Corre and called the police, posing as a man who had killed his wife and baby and was holed up at home.

Chelli gave the address of Le Corre’s parents to the police, who surrounded the house in the early hours of the morning before realizing that they had been caught up in a prank.

Benoit Le Corre during an interview with France 2. (YouTube/JTA)

Four days afterwards Le Corre’s father suffered a heart attack and died a month and a half later.

French investigators hold Chelli’s responsible for his death and are seeking his extradition on charges of “premeditated intentional violence causing unintentional death.”

A former member of the Jewish Defense League, a radical Jewish group, Chelli grew up in the Paris suburbs in a Tunisian Jewish family.

He has a history of hacking pro-Palestinian websites — he accuses them of anti-Semitism — and well as of carrying out telephone pranks targeting French journalists from left-wing media and their loved ones.

Chelli’s lawyer Gilles-William Goldnadel has argued that it is “pure fantasy” to consider that his client’s “bad joke” led to the death of Le Corre’s father, claiming that the latter had a history of heart trouble.

The Le Corre family for their part have accused the hacker, who set up the website ViolVocal to host videos of pranks carried out by himself and his followers, of cowardice for refusing to face justice in France.

“He presents himself as a hero of the Israeli cause and he is not capable of facing his accusers,” the family’s lawyer Antoine Comte accused.

Ulcan has already had brushes with the law in France. In 2009 he was given a suspended sentence for attacking a Paris bookshop run by a pro-Palestinian activist.

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