The leader of France’s Jewish Defence League was on the run in Israel on Wednesday after receiving a prison sentence for violent gang attacks in Paris, according to a MEMO source in Paris.
Joseph Ayache, 30, was convicted on Tuesday night alongside three accomplices by the 14th Chamber of the Paris Correctional Court.
All four defendants were self-confessed members of the far-right JDL, which is banned in both Israel and the USA for its links to terrorism.
Despite this, it is extremely active in France, where its yellow-and-black clenched fist flags are frequently seen at rallies in cities such as Paris and Marseille.
Ayache, who has previous convictions for racist violence, mainly against French Muslims, was found guilty of leading “extremely violent and coordinated attacks” against pro-Palestine activists in Paris.
These ranged from punishment beatings to issuing anonymous terror threats by phone or email, and were aggravated by the use of potentially lethal weapons.
Steve Bismuth, 27, Daniel Benassaya, 30, and Laurent Cashauda, 20, all turned up in court, but Ayache stayed away, insisting he feared for his life outside Israel, where he is known to have served with the military.
Video shows a Jewish Defence League vigilante pouring red paint over the head of Muslim politician Houria Bouteldja, 43
The court heard how the defendants, who insisted they were “fighting back against rising anti-Semitism”, carried out a series of “degrading and vicious” assaults against mainly women in 2012.
These included setting up a bogus interview with the Muslim politician and anti-racism campaigner Houria Bouteldja, 43, and then pouring a tin of red paint over her head.
Victims also included anti-Zionist Jews, such as 68-year-old Olivia Zemor, co-founder of the Euro-Palestine group. Mrs Zemor told the Paris court that the JDL used a “highly toxic substance” to “defile” her and that she also received calls threatening her granddaughter.
The JDL vigilantes wore hoodies to hide their identities during the attacks, but filmed them, and then placed propaganda videos on YouTube, said prosecutors.
Barrister Dominique Cochain said: “They [the attacks] were meticulously organised by Ayache and left victims injured, scared and utterly humiliated.”
There is no extradition treaty between Israel and France, meaning Ayache, described in court as “one time chief of the JDL” will escape his year in prison if he stays in the Middle East.
Benassaya and Kashauda each received a six month suspended sentence for aggravated violent acts, while Bismuth received a fine equivalent to around £700 for posting videos on social media.
Video shows Jewish Defence League rioting in Paris, while chanting “F*** Palestine
Olivia Zemor and Houria Bouteldja were awarded damages equivalent to around £15000 combined, and court costs.
In March this year, six other JDL members were jailed in Paris over an attack targeting a fundraising event for Gaza. The defendants used iron bars, baseball bats and bike chains during the attack, deliberately targeting anybody who looked like a Muslim.