Hacker hiding in Israel faces French trial in man’s death

Grégory Chelli, also known as Ulcan, is a fugitive from French justice in Israel. (via Twitter)

French prosecutors are asking a court in Paris to proceed with the trial of the Zionist hacker Ulcan in connection with the death of the father of a journalist who had reported on his attacks on pro-Palestinian websites.

Ulcan, whose real name is Grégory Chelli, is a French citizen who has lived in Israel since 2010, and is the subject of an extradition request and an arrest warrant issued by a French judge in 2015.

On 31 January, according to the French news agency AFP, the Paris prosecutor asked a judge to order that Chelli stand trial for “acts of violence causing an unintended death” – a charge carrying up to 15 years in prison – death threats, false statements and other acts.

Chelli has been accused of a series of hoax calls that have resulted in police violently raiding innocent people’s homes.

Lethal call

In the most notorious such incident, Chelli targeted the family of journalist Benoit Le Corre, possibly precipitating the death of his father.

In July 2014, Chelli, impersonating police, allegedly called Le Corre’s elderly parents to tell them their son had been killed in a car accident.

Two days later, Chelli called police impersonating Benoit Le Corre’s father and claimed to have killed his wife and son. Armed police raided the home in the middle of the night. Five days later, the elder Le Corre suffered a stroke that put him in a coma and took his life a few months later.

Following his death, Paris prosecutors opened an investigation for wilful violence resulting in death.

A medical examiner’s report, published in part by the website Rue 89, established that the elder Le Corre’s fatal illness had been precipitated by stress, indicating a possible direct link to Chelli’s harassment of the family.

Chelli’s actions were reportedly reprisals for Le Corre’s reporting on Chelli’s hacking attacks on pro-Palestinian websites.

In May 2017, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Chelli, who lives in a high-rise beachfront apartment in Israel, was the subject of a French extradition warrant on some 50 charges.

But the newspaper did not specify what those charges were.

Haaretz reported in 2017 that Chelli was “at the heart of a dispute between France and Israel, which is refusing to extradite him, despite serious pressure and even a special visit here by the French foreign minister.”

Yet “serious pressure” is a gross exaggeration given the French government’s relentless pandering to Israel, including funding and organizing a failed, months-long propaganda campaign aimed at improving Israel’s image among the French public.

It is not entirely clear what radicalized Chelli.

According to Haaretz, he grew up “in a comfortable middle-class Parisian suburb.”

He never experienced any anti-Semitic harassment, though claims his brother did. Yet in his early 20s, more than a decade ago, Chelli joined the French branch of the Jewish Defense League, a violent extremist anti-Palestinian group whose US branch was founded by the racist rabbi Meir Kahane.

Impunity

According to French media, prosecutors also want Chelli tried for some of his other hoax calls targeting a police officer and other journalists.

In June 2015, the home of Pierre Haski, a founder of the publication Rue 89, was raided by police and emergency services, after a call to police impersonating Haski claimed that the journalist had punched his wife and flooded the building with gas.

Haski blamed Chelli and said the problem was “the impunity enjoyed by this man, born in Paris and living in Israel.”

It is now up to a judge to decide whether the case will proceed to trial and a measure of justice and accountability given to Chelli’s alleged victims.

Prosecutors previously asked for Chelli’s trial to proceed but a judge ordered a delay to give Chelli an opportunity to appear voluntarily at a hearing on 11 January. He did not show up.

French law allows suspects who are fugitives from justice to be tried in absentia.

Israel, notoriously, is a safe haven for violent fugitives from justice, including, it has been reported, the suspected Jewish Defense League killers of Alex Odeh, an Arab American leader murdered in a 1985 bombing.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.