PARIS, July 13 ó A Frenchwoman whose report of an anti-Semitic attack on Friday had transfixed the nation admitted today that she had made up the story, the police said. The admission came after the police began to publicly express doubts about her story.
The woman’s report on how she had been attacked caused a public outcry in France, which has been seen a sharp increase of anti-Semitic incidents in recent months.
The 23-year-old woman, identified in the French press as Marie L., was taken in for questioning after the police failed to verify any of the information she gave into the attack. She admitted to have fabricated the story, the police said today.
On Friday, Marie L. reported that six men had attacked her on a suburban train north of Paris after they mistakenly identified her as a Jew. She said the attackers slashed her clothing with knives, lightly wounding her in the process, and marked three swastikas on her stomach with a marker. Before the group got off the train, she said, the assailants overturned the stroller of her 13-month-old child, who fell to the ground.
But a police examination of the video surveillance of the train platform where the attackers reportedly got off did not show the presence of the group of assailants, while the police’s tip hotline never received any calls. The police had also raised questions about the woman’s history of filing complaints for assaults that were never proved.
President Jacques Chirac harshly condemned the attack on Saturday, calling for a thorough investigation of what he called a “shameful act.” Most French politicians and human rights organizations also swiftly reacted, with the French Communist Party called for a demonstration to denounce anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia in Paris on Monday. Newspapers strongly condemned both the attackers and the fact that none of the reported 20 witnesses to the attack had come to the woman’s help.
The right-of-center daily Figaro on Monday led its edition with “The Train of Hate” and published an op-ed article today that drew a parallel with the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, in Queens. The left-leaning Liberation described the reported attack as “monstrous” in its Monday editorial.
Today, reports that the attack had been fabricated led to questions over rushing to political declarations before the incident had been verified.
“It’s quite unfortunate that we didn’t check before this information was circulated. It shows a climate, which affects weak minds ó this woman is sick ó she is influenced by the climate of violence and of intolerance that reigns,” said Roger Cukierman, the head of France’s leading Jewish organization, CRIF.
But Mr. Cukierman didn’t condemn the media frenzy over the case.
“I think it was legitimate, since the information was out, that the media and politicians would react. The problem today is that we have attacks by the hundreds. To us, that’s the real problem,” said Mr. Cukierman, who thought that the fabricated report wouldn’t necessarily lead to the playing down of potential future anti-Semitic incidents. “There are so many anti-Semitic aggressions, you can’t deny them all,” he said.
Mr. Chirac’s office reported there would be no immediate reaction but indicated that he might address the topic in a television interview on Wednesday for the French national holiday.
For having fabricated the attack, the woman could be placed under investigation and charged for lying to magistrates, an offense which carries up to six months in jail and a 7,500 euro ($9,241) fine.