In Shocking Decision, French Court Exonerates Brutal Anti-Semitic Murderer of Sarah Halimi

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- Sarah Halimi was beaten before she was thrown off her Paris apartment building's roof in April 2017. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Halimi family

Edited by:  Fern Sidman

Family members of a 65-year old Parisian woman who was viciously murdered by her neighbor in 2017 as he screamed anti-Semitic slurs will not stand trial, according to a JTA report on Wednesday.

In April of 2017, Kobili Traoré, a then 27-year-old Muslim man, savagely beat Sarah Halimi, (a Jewish woman and his neighbor), while screaming “Allah Akbar” (God is great) and other hateful antisemitic epithets before throwing her out of the window of her third-floor apartment to her death, as was reported in the Jerusalem Post. JTA reported that Halimi was both a physician and an educator. Traore broke into her third floor apartment and called her a demon and began to violently pummel her before throwing her out the window to her death, according to a report.

Previously, a lower court said that he was not responsible for his actions, however, since he smoked an extensive dose of cannabis that “affected” his senses. This decision has sparked outrage among the French and International Jewish community.

In its decision Wednesday, the Court of Cassation’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld rulings by lower tribunals that Traore cannot stand trial in the 2017 killing of Halimi because he was too high on marijuana to be criminally responsible for his actions, as was reported by the JTA.

The way in which the murder of Halimi was handled by the French judiciary has been a seminal event for French Jews who assert that it underscores France’s abysmal failure in strongly dealing with growing anti-Semitism in the country.

JTA reported that the appeals court said that Traore, now in his early 30s, had an anti-Semitic bias and that the killing was partly connected to it. But it also accepted the defense claims that Traore was too high on marijuana to be tried by a jury of his peers for the gruesome murder. The court ordered that he be placed in a psychiatric facility and his only penalty will be that he will be banned from visiting the site of the murder or having any contact with Halimi’s family for 20 years.

The CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities called it a “miscarriage of justice,” according to the JTA report. The founder of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, a communal watchdog known as BNVCA, said he “no longer had full confidence that anti-Semitic hate crimes in France are handled properly.”

On March 4th, an article appeared on the Jerusalem Post web site by Sarah Chemla that quoted Halimi’s attorney.  Muriel Ouaknine Melki, the Halimi family attorney said, “How can we have a ‘discernment’ that is abolished, but the remainder of a conscience?” She added that French citizens as a whole had an important stake in Traoré facing trial, as they would then be able to establish whether “the consumption of narcotics can be a cause for exonerating from penal responsibility in criminal matters.”

The JPost reported indicated that Ouaknine emphasized that French law more commonly mandates further penalties for individuals who commit crimes under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“I want to recall that for several offenses, for example the crime of rape, taking narcotics is an aggravating circumstance,” she said. “In willful violence, it is also an aggravating circumstance.”

In early January of 2020, France24.com reported that hundreds of French Jews and their supporters staged a protest rally in Paris calling for justice for Halimi. The report said that the protestors gathered against the lower court ruling at the Place de la Republique and the rally concluded at Halimi’s former home in Belleville in the city’s 11th arrondissement (district).

France24.com reported that nn the day of Halimi’s killing, witnesses reported hearing Traoré shout, “I killed the shaitan,” an Arabic word that means “demon”, after he threw her body onto the building’s courtyard.

According to the Guardian newspaper of the UK, Traoré told a judge that anti-Semitism did not compel him to attack Halimi and that he was not in his right mind. But he also said that seeing a Jewish candelabra and prayer book in the 65-year-old woman’s apartment intensified his mental state.

Georges Halimi, one of the victim’s brothers, told France24.com in 2017 that his sister and her daughter were often insulted in their building, and that his sister’s neighbor and his family would spit on the ground when she passed by.