Tags at the Shoah Memorial: investigators on the trail of three suspects fleeing abroad – 05/22/2024 at 7:07 p.m.

Red hands tagged on the Wall of the Righteous at the Shoah Memorial in Paris, May 14, 2024 (AFP / Antonin UTZ)

Police officers investigating the “red hands” sprayed on the Shoah Memorial in Paris are digging into the trail of three suspects fleeing abroad, amid suspicions of foreign manipulation.

On the night of May 13 to 14, 35 tags representing red hands were painted on the Wall of the Righteous, outside the Memorial, where plaques bearing the names of the 3,900 men and women who contributed to saving victims are affixed. Jews during World War II.

An investigation was opened for deliberate damage to a classified property and due to belonging to a nation, ethnicity, race or religion.

Video surveillance allowed Paris Territorial Security police officers to spot three suspects and “retrace (their) journey” to a Parisian hotel, in the 20th arrondissement, “then their departure to the Bercy bus station and their departure for Belgium”, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday, confirming information from Le Canard chainé.

“Investigations also established that the reservations had been made from Bulgaria,” added the prosecution, without specifying further the content of these reservations or commenting on the nationality of the persons concerned.

The investigation, which is continuing preliminary, also concerns “several dozen similar tags in the 4th and 5th arrondissements of the capital” according to the prosecution.

The vandalization aroused strong indignation in the Jewish community, and at the top of the State, while the symbolism of the tagged “red hands” had already been at the heart of a controversy at the end of April.

Emmanuel Macron thus denounced “the attack on the memory” of the victims of the Shoah and the Righteous and promised a Republic “inflexible in the face of odious anti-Semitism”.

These tags had also generated a surge of messages on the social network

– “Bots” –

One of these publications denounced “an act of hatred which should not go unpunished”. “Mr. Macron, where is your commitment against anti-Semitism?” it was still written, according to Antibot4Navalny.

Red hands were spray-painted on the Wall of the Righteous outside the Shoah memorial on May 14, 2024, in Paris (AFP / Antonin UTZ)

Red hands were spray-painted on the Wall of the Righteous outside the Shoah memorial on May 14, 2024, in Paris (AFP / Antonin UTZ)

Almost identical messages posted simultaneously by accounts resembling “bots” (automatic accounts created on a chain relaying content on social networks), a method found in disinformation and/or foreign interference campaigns.

They referred, via a link, to a text called an “editorial” published on a website presented as a cultural information site.

This text, dated May 15, accused the French president of inaction in the face of “the problem of insecurity in the country.”

The domain name of the website is one of the domain names that Meta (parent company of Facebook) had determined last year as one of the many sites used during the vast campaign of interference and disinformation spotted in 2023 and called “Doppelgänger” (“Doppelganger” in German).

This campaign consisted of imitating the visual identity of Western media to spread pro-Russian disinformation.

– “Paid sponsors” –

In October, the discovery of Stars of David tagged on buildings in the Paris region raised fears in France of a contagion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the affair, for which a Moldovan couple was arrested, was ultimately attributed by the French authorities to the Russian security services (FSB).

In both cases, they are “sponsors paid to destabilize and press on the divisions in French society”, estimated the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, during a press conference in Weimar in Germany.

He called for denouncing these “destabilizing maneuvers” while awaiting the “results of the judicial investigation”.

Foreign interference campaigns are systematically based on the same principle of adding fuel to the fire on divisive issues in Western countries and accusing their leaders of inaction.

For the president of Crif, Yonathan Arfi, “instrumentalizing or staging anti-Semitic acts in France is in itself a hostile approach both to Jews and to France as a whole.”

“That these acts were sponsored from abroad therefore takes nothing away from their anti-Semitic character and the outrage to the Memory of the Shoah is unfortunately unchanged,” Mr. Arfi stressed to AFP.

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