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French teens get suspended sentences for vandalizing Jewish gravestones

5 defendants, who claim ruin of over 300 tombstones wasn’t anti-Semitic attack, given 140 hours community service

A member of the Jewish community looks at broken tombstones after a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, eastern France, on February 17, 2015, following the desecration of around 300 tombs. (Photo credit: AFP/PATRICK HERTZOG)
A member of the Jewish community looks at broken tombstones after a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, eastern France, on February 17, 2015, following the desecration of around 300 tombs. (Photo credit: AFP/PATRICK HERTZOG)

A juvenile court in northeastern France suspended the prison sentences of five teenagers who vandalized a Jewish cemetery and damaged a Holocaust memorial.

The defendants, who were 15 to 17 in February 2015 when the vandalism occurred, were sentenced last week to eight to 18 months in prison for toppling and breaking some 300 gravestones in the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, located in the Bas-Rhin region in Alsace. The cemetery is still in use.

A Holocaust memorial monument on the cemetery property was also vandalized.

The five are also each required to serve 140 hours of community service.

Each defendant had faced up to seven years in prison. They all reportedly expressed regret for their actions during court hearings on Thursday and Friday.

Several relatives of people buried in the vandalized graves attended the court hearings. Most of the gravestones have not yet been repaired due to the astronomical cost, the French news agency AFP reported.

The youngest suspect turned himself in days after the vandalism and named the other four. He denied there was an anti-Semitic motive to the desecration.

Prosecutors disagreed, saying the teens used “gestures and revealing words” that showed them to be anti-Semites.

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