A French court recently ruled that Kobili Traoré would not stand trial for torturing and murdering Sarah Halimi, a 66-year-old Jewish woman, saying that Traoré had a "temporary abolition of discernment" from smoking marijuana. Francis Kalifat (pictured), president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, remarked that "an anti-Semitic murder could become the only murder excused by the courts on the basis of the use of drugs, while in all other cases, drugs are an aggravating factor." (Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)
Paris, April 4, 2017. Sarah Halimi, a 66-year-old Jewish woman, is thrown from her third-floor balcony or window. Her body lands in the building's courtyard. Her murderer first had tortured her. Neighbors had heard screams and called the police. Nine officers came, but when they heard through the door a man shouting "Allahu Akbar", they ran downstairs to wait for reinforcements. When Kobili Traoré finally surrendered, he said, "I killed the sheitan" (Arabic for "Satan"). While torturing his victim, he said, he had recited verses from the Qur'an, and the Qur'an had "ordered him to kill a Jew". He said he had spent the previous day in a nearby mosque. He was placed in a mental institution, where he told the psychiatrist who examined him that he smoked marijuana.
The murder was not mentioned in the newspapers. A French Jewish organizations spoke of a "distressing anti-Semitic crime" and organized a silent demonstration in front of Halimi's building. It was only then that a few articles were written. The French presidential election was about to take place, and journalists from the mainstream media apparently did not want to speak about an anti-Semitic murder committed by a Muslim.
The judge assigned to the case, Anne Ihuellou, at first refused to acknowledge that the murder had been a hate crime. It took the Halimi family's lawyers more than six months to get her finally to concede, on February 27, 2018, that the motive for the murder had in fact been anti-Semitic.
The judge also refused to organize a review of the events of the case, and agreed to question Traoré only briefly. She called in a psychiatric expert, Daniel Zagury, who said that at the time of the act, the murderer had been in a state of "acute delirium" due to the consumption of cannabis, but fully "accessible to a penal sanction." Seemingly dissatisfied with Dr. Zagury's conclusions, Judge Ihuellou asked for two more opinions by experts -- both of whom, contradicting Dr. Zagury's conclusions, said that the Traoré was unfit to stand trial.
On July 12, 2019, the judge dismissed Dr. Zagury's report, declared that there are "plausible reasons for concluding that the murderer is not criminally responsible" and stated that the attack had not been anti-Semitic.
Realizing that Traoré could soon be released without trial, the Halimi family's lawyers requested that the case immediately be transferred to a court of appeals.
That court, issuing its decision on December 19, declared that Kobili Traoré had "voluntarily killed" Sarah Halimi and had thereby committed a murder. The court also acknowledged the "aggravating circumstance of anti-Semitism," but added that due to a "temporary abolition of discernment," the murderer was "criminally irresponsible," could not be tried, and therefore had to be released.
The president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), Francis Kalifat, remarked that "an anti-Semitic murder could become the only murder excused by the courts on the basis of the use of drugs, while in all other cases, drugs are an aggravating factor."
A lawyer for the Halimi family, Francis Szpiner, said that a "Sarah Halimi jurisprudence" has been created: "anyone who suffers from a delusional puff because of the use of illicit and dangerous substances will be exempt from criminal responsibility."
Another lawyer for the victim's family, Gilles-William Goldnadel, expressed his "disgust," and said that "if the victim were not Jewish and if the murderer were not a Muslim, the decision could have been different."
A member of parliament, Meyer Habib, commented that the court's decision was a "judicial scandal never seen in France" and added that there is "an obvious desire on the part of the French judiciary system to exonerate an anti-Semitic Islamic murderer". "Releasing an anti-Semitic murderer without trial sends a horrible signal to French Jews," he said. He recalled that in the recent past, Traoré had been sentenced more than ten times for violent assaults, and said that if the judicial system had done its job before the murder of Sarah Halimi, the murder would have been avoided.
A psychiatrist, Claude Bloch, noted that the ruling may "allow anyone with fierce hatred for Jews to murder them with impunity."
The eminent historian, Georges Bensoussan, said in an interview with Le Figaro:
"... the French judicial system chose to avoid a trial so that no one will talk about an immigration which is not well integrated, and, in certain cases today, is undergoing the effect of a process of re-Islamization.
"... a trial would have shown the disintegration of the nation, questioned the reluctance of the authorities who did not give an order to intervene during the ordeal of this woman which lasted nearly an hour, and questioned the silence of the media in the days that followed. All this sent the Jews back to their loneliness, and makes anti-Semitism (the Jews are 0.7% of the French population and are the target of half of all racist acts committed in France) a Jewish affair."... the decision taken by the justices leaves the impression that in high places, powerful persons are ready to sacrifice the most fragile individuals to save a semblance of social peace. Such capitulation indicates to Jews the direction of the exit. It also shows the conspirators who fantasize night and day about 'Jewish power' the emptiness of this power in a country where 62% of the compatriots of the Jews say they are indifferent to their departure."
On January 5, French Jewish organizations organized a protest to demand that the judiciary reverse its decision. All the French political organizations remained silent; none joined the protest. The mainstream media observed virtually a total silence on the subject. Only Jews came to the demonstration.
Sarah Halimi's brother, William Attal, addressing the protestors at the Place de la République in Paris, spoke in detail about what Halimi had suffered. The details of the autopsy report were excruciating: all the bones in her face had been broken, mandible, maxilla, frontal bone, nasal bones, and zygoma, some by a hard object, maybe a hammer, and her body had been punctured 22 times. He denounced the inaction of the police, the cowardice of the justices and the silence of the media. He reported facts which, until then, had not been revealed: one of the police officers who had gone to the crime scene had not come back downstairs with his colleagues. Even though he was armed, he had stayed behind the door. He had not moved. He had just listened to the murderer shouting and the victim screaming in pain.
The judge had refused to hear the police officer. Although Traoré told the psychiatric experts that he had called people while he was torturing Halimi, the judge also refused to search his phone. The mosque frequented by the murderer was apparently also frequented by many who had gone to carry out jihad in Syria.
Only Jewish newspapers and magazines reported what Attal said.
In an open letter, the Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, asked the Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet, to intervene, in order not to "deprive citizens of one of the most precious rights in a democracy: the right of appealing to justice to shed light on an act of violence and hatred." He said that he "usually compels himself not to comment on court decisions," but he suggested in this case, "a serious breach of trust." He added: "Should we deduce that any drugged individual would have a license to kill Jews?"
It is doubtful that Nicole Belloubet will even reply. Judges and lawyers immediately said they were outraged by Haim Korsia's open letter and claimed that he wanted to "undermine the independence of the judiciary." Philippe Bilger, a well-known retired magistrate, accused Korsia of "incitement to violate a fundamental rule governing the organization of our powers."
In an article published by Haaretz, Shirli Sitbon wrote:
"In France, perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks claim insanity to elude justice. The mental illness defense has become more prevalent when it comes to hate crimes in France. And it seems to be working."
She went on to say, citing precedents, that a sinister series of events had begun with the murder of Sebastien Sellam in 2003. Although the murderer, Adel Amastaibou, had told the police "If he's dead, I'm so happy, that f ***ing Jew, that dirty Jew," Sellam was declared not responsible due to "mental problems."
In 2006, Ilan Halimi, a 23 year-old French Jew and a distant relative of Sarah Halimi, was abducted, tortured for 24 days, and then murdered by a Muslim anti-Semite Youssouf Fofana and the "gang of barbarians" he led. His suffering and the cause of his death by torture created a huge emotional shock in France. His mother, Ruth Halimi, said on television: "I want the death of my son to be an alarm." The alarm, it seems, was not heard.
Similar cases followed.
Less than a year after the murder of Sarah Halimi, on March 23, 2018, another Jew, Mireille Knoll, was murdered in Paris. The main suspect, Yacine Mihoub, was accused by his accomplice, Alex Carrimbacus, of having stabbed Knoll as he shouted "Allahu Akbar," because "the Jews have money.'" Mihoud's lawyer said that his client had not been in a "normal state" at the time of the crime, but added that it was an anti-Semitic murder. He did not explain how Mihoud was sufficiently aware of his actions to go to his mother's apartment after he murdered Knoll and asked her to wash the knife he had used to kill his victim. (Mihoud's mother is now accused of complicity in the murder).
Muslim anti-Semitism has long been ignored in France. The only book in French devoted to the subject -- A Survey on Muslim Anti-Semitism: From Its Origins to the Present Day by Philippe Simonnot -- actually justified Muslim anti-Semitism by claiming that the Jews living in the Muslim world had supported European colonizers, and adding that Jews support Israel, a "new colonial enterprise based on Muslim land theft."
A "manifesto against the new anti-Semitism," by a journalist, Philippe Val, and signed by 250 politicians, writers and artists, was published in Le Parisien on April 21, 2018, less than a month after the murder of Knoll. Perhaps driven by a desire to spare Islam and not to say clearly that the actual victims of Muslim anti-Semitism are Jews, Val wrote "Muslim anti-Semitism is the greatest threat to 21st century Islam".
A few days later, in Le Monde, a text signed by thirty imams was published, saying that "Islam is not guilty," and that the problem comes from "harmful ignorance." The text added that there was a solution: "reading the Qur'an."
Since then, nothing has changed. In a recent book, France Without the Jews, a sociologist, Danny Trom, analyzed the growing insecurity suffered by the Jews in France, the willful blindness of successive governments and courts, and year after year, the departure of more Jews:
"Now the possibility of one day having to leave is integrated into the perspective of every Jew, no matter how he defines himself or how he relates to Zionism. The departures reflect not only a growing and very real feeling of insecurity, but also a feeling of loneliness and abandonment in the face of adversity."
In a recent article in Le Figaro, Celine Pina wrote:
"When one kills in the name of Allah, the excuse of mental imbalance does not hold. If there is one thing in common in all of this blood that keeps flowing, it is the implantation of Islamists on our soil, their network of mosques, their propaganda through books, satellite dishes, their speeches which permeate many districts and territories, their shows of strength.... the situation is not under control."
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.