France - Courts

French court rules no trial over Jewish woman's murder

Demonstration in support of Sarah Halimi's relatives, January 5, 2020 (CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / EPA)
Demonstration in support of Sarah Halimi's relatives, January 5, 2020 (CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / EPA) © franceinfo

France's highest court has found that a man who killed a Jewish woman by pushing her out of her Paris window was not criminally responsible and cannot be tried for murder, provoking anger from anti-racism groups who say the verdict puts Jews at risk. 

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Sarah Halimi, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties, was killed in 2017 when she was pushed out of the window of her Paris apartment by her neighbour Kobili Traoré. The man shouted "Allahu Akbar", or "God is greatest" in Arabic.

The Court of Cassation's verdict means the suspect will not face any trial, confirming previous rulings from lower courts. 

Traoré, a heavy marijuana 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 wave of anti-Semitism among radicalised Muslim youths in predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods.

Magistrates reject Macron's appeal

French President Emmanuel Macron criticised the lower court's insanity finding in January last year, which drew a sharp riposte from France's top magistrates who invoked the separation of powers.

Macron maintained there was "a need for a trial" even if the judge decided there was no criminal responsibility.

Following Wednesday's ruling, the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) said "This is an additional drama that adds to this tragedy."

"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.

Spike in anti-Semitism

Meanwhile, lawyers representing Halimi's family said they intend to refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights

The case of Sarah Halimi's death 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, most notably in 2012, when an Islamist gunman shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse. 

Also in the wave of attacks in November 2015, a pro-Islamic State radical gunned down four people at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

(with AFP)

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