The death of a 12-year-old girl whose body was discovered inside a plastic trunk has left France “profoundly shaken,” prompting accusations that far-right lawmakers have politicized her death in order to criticize the government’s immigration policies.
The girl, identified only as Lola by authorities, was last seen alive on surveillance camera footage in her apartment building in northeast Paris at 3:15 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET) on Friday, according to a statement issued by the Paris state prosecutor on Monday.
The numbers 0 and 1 were written in red ink on the bottoms of each of the victim’s feet, a macabre detail in a case that has left France “profoundly shaken, confronted with horror and pain,” government spokesman Olivier Véran told reporters Wednesday.
According to the prosecutor’s statement, an autopsy revealed Lola died of “cardio-respiratory failure with manifestation of asphyxia,” and there were signs of cervical compression.
The Paris state prosecutor said Monday that a 24-year-old woman arrested Saturday in a northeastern suburb of the capital is being held on charges of murder and rape of a minor, torture, acts of barbarity, and concealment of a corpse.
According to prosecutors, a 43-year-old man is also in custody, charged with assisting in the concealment of the girl’s body. Four other people have been released without being charged.
On Tuesday, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told the National Assembly that the arrested woman had been given an order to leave France on August 22.
He claimed that the suspect was unknown to the police but had been a victim of violence.
Far-right politicians have since attacked French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government, blaming it for the girl’s death on immigration policies.
“Once again, the perpetrator of this heinous crime should not have been in France.” What are you waiting for to act to put an end to this out-of-control illegal immigration?” Marine Le Pen, who ran unsuccessfully for president for the third time this year, tweeted on Tuesday.
Later that day, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told a parliamentary session that Le Pen should “show some decency and respect for the family’s grief.”
In a tweet Monday, Eric Zemmour, a far-right controversialist who rose to prominence during this year’s presidential election before his challenge faded, called the death a “Francocide,” or the targeted death of a French person.
On Tuesday, Eric Pauget, a member of the right-wing Les Republicains Party, told France’s National Assembly that Lola had been “martyred” as a result of France’s immigration weakness.
“But because of the Republic’s weakness, she lived in pain, torture, and barbarism in the heart of Paris; because of the laxity of your immigration policy, this child was martyred, raped, and killed by an illegal who had the obligation to leave French territory,” he said.
In response to Pauget, Dupond-Moretti stated, “It is a disgrace to play petty politics, to use the coffin of a 12-year-old girl as a steppingstone.” Do not contribute to the most heinous atrocity, the unworthy trade of demagogue.”
At a news conference on Wednesday, government spokesman Véran said the executive should “obviously do better” in enforcing orders for foreign nationals to leave France.
Marta Lorimer, a London School of Economics expert on far-right European politics, said the story was “almost the ideal case for the far right to exploit.”
“They can use the threat of migration to argue that there are too many immigrants and that we must expel them.” “It also touches on security concerns,” she added.
She went on to say that, while Le Pen downplayed her anti-immigrant stance during the election in order to appeal to center-right and lapsed socialist voters, a news story like this “allows her to go town.”
In recent years, France has seen a sharp rise in far-right politics, with the National Rally, formerly the National Front, establishing itself as one of Europe’s leading far-right populist parties, mixing anti-immigrant rhetoric with strong support for public services.
In the April elections, Le Pen came within 17 points of defeating Macron, the closest any far-right populist party has come to gaining power in the country.
Following that defeat, the party rebounded to win 89 of 577 seats in the June parliamentary elections, receiving protest votes from traditional left- and right-wing voters tired of Macron’s pragmatic centrism.