French boys charged with raping Jewish girl, 12, in antisemitic hate crime

Two adolescent boys in a Paris suburb have been given preliminary charges of raping a 12-year-old girl and of religion-motivated violence, French authorities said Wednesday. 

Boys, 12 and 13, being held in custody on numerous charges

A person holds up a white sign that says "it could have been your sister" in French during a protest against anti-semitic violence in Paris.
People attend a demonstration against anti-Semitism in front of Paris City Hall on Wednesday after teenagers aged 12 to 13 were indicted in Courbevoie, accused of rape and anti-Semitic violence against a 12-year-old girl. The sign reads, "It could have been your sister." (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

Two adolescent boys in a Paris suburb have been given preliminary charges of raping a 12-year-old girl and of religion-motivated violence, French authorities said Wednesday. 

The attack elicited widespread shock and concern, notably after a surge in antisemitic acts in France since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

The girl reported a rape in the town of Courbevoie on Saturday, and three boys, aged 12 and 13, were detained, according to the regional prosecutor's office. Courbevoie is just outside the city limits of Paris.

It said two of the boys were given multiple preliminary charges on Tuesday, including aggravated gang rape on a minor younger than 15, violence and public insult motivated by religion, death threats, attempted extortion and unlawfully recording or broadcasting sexual images.

The prosecutor's office did not specify the girl's religion or release her identity, as is standard practice for hate crimes in France.

Later, lawyer and Jewish leader Elie Korchia said in an interview with French broadcaster BFM that the girl is Jewish, and that Palestine was mentioned during the attack. French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the girl was "raped because she's Jewish," identifying it as an antisemitic attack.

The two boys are being held in custody pending further investigation, the prosecutor's office said. The third boy was named as an assisted witness to the alleged rape, and placed in a special education program. The prosecutor's office said the three boys "expressed regret towards the victim without addressing their involvement."

A close-up photo of a man in a dark blue suit.
French President Emmanuel Macron is pictured on June 12. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

Political leaders across the spectrum denounced the attack. French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday asked schools to hold a "discussion hour" on racism and antisemitism this week after the rape added to France's charged social climate ahead of elections.

The president asked Education Minister Nicole Belloubet "to organize a discussion in all schools on the fight against antisemitism and racism, to prevent hate speech with serious consequences from infiltrating schools," Macron's office said.

France is in the midst of a blitz campaign for snap parliamentary elections on June 30 and July 7, and the front-runner far-right National Rally party has sought to make security and immigration key campaign issues.

A man in a suit makes a fist while speaking to television reporters during a rally.
French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti speaks during the demonstration against anti-semitism in front of Paris City Hall on Wednesday. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin described the attack as "awful," and said police were limited in their ability to prevent such violence. "It's a problem of the parents … of authority. It's a problem of society as a whole," he said on BFM television.

On Wednesday evening, hundreds of people gathered in front of Paris City Hall to protest antisemitism. Many in the crowd were holding placards, including some bearing the slogan "raped because she's Jewish."

With files from Reuters