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Anti-Semitic lie: Woman convicted

Associated Press, USA
July 26, 2004 • Monday July 26, 2004

PONTOISE, France (AP) — A young French woman who admitted to lying about being the victim of an anti-Semitic attack has been convicted for fabricating a story that stunned France and given a four-month suspended sentence.

The 22-year-old woman, Marie Leblanc, was also on Monday ordered to receive counseling and put under probation for two years at the trial in Pontoise, north of Paris.

Defense lawyers and her mother have described the woman as psychologically fragile and deeply sorry for her lie, which created an uproar in France as the government is trying to combat a rise in anti-Semitic and other hate crimes.

The woman claimed she was robbed on a suburban Paris train earlier this month by a knife-wielding gang that mistook her for a Jew and scrawled swastikas on her body.

President Jacques Chirac reacted immediately, calling the alleged attack a “shameful act.”

But police found no clues or witnesses. After learning the woman had a history of lying and filing complaints about assaults that were never proved, she was detained for questioning.

In a search of her home in the suburb of Aubervilliers, police found the marker she had used to draw swastikas on her body and other evidence. The woman subsequently went on national TV to issue a public apology.

“I offer my apologies to the president … and people who demonstrated their support for my lie,” she said on France-3 television last weekend, with her back to the camera. “I regret this act and I ask for forgiveness to those I deceived and hurt.”

Earlier Monday, a prosecutor recommended a slightly tougher penalty: a six-month suspended sentence, a $2,430 fine and counseling.

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