France’s Court of Cassation has ruled that Sarah Halimi’s killer could not be held to stand trial due to being high on cannabis whilst committing the murder.
In 2017, Ms Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, was murdered by her 27-year-old Muslim neighbour, Kobili Traoré, after he tortured her before pushing her out of a window to her death.
Mr Traoré was said to have yelled “Allah Akbar,” “I killed the shaitan,” which is an Arabic word for ‘devil’ or ‘demon’, along with antisemitic vitriol.
In December 2019, France’s lower court ruled that Mr Traoré could not be held to stand trial as he was under the influence of cannabis at the time, which was said to have affected his judgment.
This decision provoked thousands of French Jews and their supporters to rally in Paris last year in order to protest the decision by the French Court of Appeal that Mr Traoré was “not criminally responsible” for his actions. Ms Halimi was routinely insulted in their building, Mr Traoré conceded that seeing a Jewish menorah and prayer book in the 65-year-old lady’s flat intensified his mental state and even the court acknowledged that the attack was antisemitic.
The lower court’s ruling was upheld by France’s Court of Cassation late last week. This most recent ruling from the Court of Cassation has sparked outrage across Jewish communities, with many, including France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, calling for reforms in French law.
In an interview with Le Figaro magazine, President Macron said: “Deciding to take drugs and then ‘becoming mad’ should not in my eyes remove your criminal responsibility. On this topic, I would like the Minister of Justice to submit a change to the law as soon as possible.
“It is not for me to comment on a court decision, but I would like to tell the family, relatives of the victim and all fellow citizens of the Jewish faith who were awaiting this trial of my warm support and the determination of the Republic to protect them.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “After the Holocaust, in which France did so little to protect its Jewish citizens, the nation swore to defend the Jews who remained against their tormentors. This latest decision, with France’s highest court determining that torturing and throwing an elderly Jewish woman out of a window cannot be ascribed to antisemitic motivations if the attacker is high, is a betrayal of that pledge.
“The fact that this cruel antisemitic murder has been punished less than a similar crime committed against a dog would be, tells you how the French authorities view Jews and how unserious they are about protecting them.
“In view of this attitude, it is little wonder that so many Jews have fled France in recent years and that fewer than half of British Jews believe that the Jewish community has a long-term future in Europe.”