Top French court upholds decision not to try suspect in Jewish woman’s murder
France’s highest court on Wednesday ruled that the suspected murderer of Jewish woman Sarah Halimi was not criminally responsible and could not go on trial, provoking anger from anti-racism groups who say the verdict puts Jews at risk.
Halimi, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties, died in 2017 after being pushed out of the window of her Paris flat by neighbour Kobili Traoré, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic).
The verdict by the Court of Cassation, means Traoré will not face any trial. It confirmed past rulings from lower courts.
Traoré, a heavy pot smoker, has been in psychiatric care since Halimi’s death. The court said he committed the killing after succumbing to a “delirious fit” and was thus not responsible for his actions.
Her murder stoked debate over a new strain of anti-Semitism among radicalised Muslim youths in predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods.
French President Emmanuel Macron criticised the lower court’s insanity-finding in January last year, drawing a sharp riposte from the country’s top magistrates who invoked the separation of powers.
Macron said there was “a need for a trial” even if the judge decided there was no criminal responsibility.
“This is an additional drama that adds to this tragedy,” said the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) after the ruling.
“From now on in our country we can torture and kill Jews with complete impunity,” added the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), Francis Kalifat.
‘Bad message’ for French Jews
Following Wednesday’s verdict, lawyers representing Halimi’s family said they intend to refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“It’s a bad message for French Jewish citizens,” said the lawyer for Halimi’s brother, Muriel Ouaknine Melki.
But Traoré’s lawyer Patrice Spinosi said that while he could “obviously understand the victims’ frustration that there will not be a trial” the law “in its current state” does not allow perpetrators to be tried in such circumstances.
The case of Sarah Halimi is an emotive one for the French Jewish community, which was dismayed at the initial reluctance of the judiciary to formally label her killing anti-Semitic.
French Jews have been repeatedly targeted by jihadists in recent years.
In 2012, Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse.
Three years later, a jihadist gunman gunned down four people at a Jewish supermarket in Paris in an attack that coincided with a deadly raid on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.