Against the backdrop of a spate of recent murders of Jewish victims deemed anti-Semitic in nature, including the high-profile murders of Mireille Knoll and Sarah Halimi, an i24NEWS investigation into the 2003 killing of 23-year-old Sébastien Selam has found the anti-Semitic character of his murder to be seemingly undeniable despite the verdict in the case at the time.
In 2003, 23-year-old Jewish man Sebastien Selam (aka “DJ LamC”) had just begun a promising career as a disc jockey when he was murdered by his Muslim neighbor and childhood friend Adel Amastaibou.
Sebastien was found dead in the parking lot of his building, his body mutilated by wounds inflicted by knives and forks. That same evening, Amastaibou told police: “I’m happy if he died that bastard, this bastard, if he’s dead, I’m too happy, this f**king Jew, dirty Jew,” according to a part of the testimony i24NEWS was able to access.
In the same document, police stated that Amastaibou’s behavior is “sensible and voluntary” and that the suspect “is fully satisfied with his act.”
Despite this account, Amastaibou, who had already been admitted on several occasions to a psychiatric hospital, was sent to the psychiatric infirmary of the Prefecture of Police. The crime’s aggravating circumstance of anti-Semitism was not documented by police.
In his report on the case, expert psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Zagury noted that, according to him, “it is not an anti-Semitic act but an act of delirium”, before specifying that “the delirium is animated by an underlying theme of anti-Semitism.”
And if anti-Semitism was “present”, he continued, “the pathology of the suspect consumes the entire psychic field” of the individual.
Zagury’s findings echo those of the experts consulted following the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, who was beaten and thrown to her death from the window of her Paris apartment by her 27-year-old neighbor Kobili Traore.
In Halimi’s case, Traore’s psychiatric history initially saw judges fail to identify the anti-Semitic nature of the murder, before finally recognizing the aggravating circumstance eleven months later, following demands by the prosecutor, the victim’s family and advocacy groups.
Speaking to i24NEWS, Sebastien Selam’s mother Juliette recalls the mother of her son’s murderer as an obvious anti-Semite.
“She was an anti-Semite…She tore down the mezzouzas [from the doors] of the Jews next door, everywhere, she treated people as ‘dirty Jews’,” Ms. Selam told i24NEWS.
Fourteen years later, Ms. Selam says she is fighting for the anti-Semitic character of her son’s murder to be recognized.
The family’s lawyer, Mr. Axel Metzker, denounced the exclusion of anti-Semitism as an aggravating circumstance in the case as an injustice.
“Had we fought the Selam case as we should have – in a criminal court – we would have sent a message as early as 2003 that one does not attack Jews in France,” Metzker tells i24NEWS, nearly a decade-and-a-half after the case and the murders of 11 other Jews simply because they were Jews.
Questioned by i24NEWS about the Selam case, Guillaume Didier, a former cabinet member at France’s Ministry of Justice, tried to explain how, despite the damning remarks by the suspect himself, the anti-Semitic motive went unrecognized.
“At the time, neither for the legislator, nor for the judiciary, nor even for society, was it natural to note these aggravating circumstances of anti-Semitism, for a very simple reason. Anti-Semitism as an aggravating circumstance of crime was only introduced in the French Criminal Code in 2003, the very year of Sebastien Selam’s murder.”
Marion Bernard is a journalist and head of i24NEWS’ French website
By: Marion Bernard