Brutal Murder of French Jewish Pensioner Sarah Halimi Motivated by ‘Antisemitism,’ Paris Public Prosecutor Concludes
French Jews have cautiously welcomed the decision of the Paris public prosecutors’ office to recognize the murder of Sarah Halimi – a Jewish pensioner who lived alone in public housing in Paris — as an antisemitic hate crime.
The prosecutor’s decision was announced last week, and was based on interviews conducted by psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Zagury with Halimi’s killer, 27-year-old Kobili Traore. In the early hours of April 4, Traore — who had previously made antisemitic remarks to Dr. Halimi — broke into her apartment and proceeded to beat her ferociously while yelling Islamist slogans. Police who arrived at the scene during Halimi’s ordeal reportedly feared a terrorist attack was underway and failed to rescue her before Traore threw her out of a third-floor window to her death.
According to Zagury, Traore’s assault on Halimi was both “antisemitic” and a “delirious act” influenced by the heavy consumption of marijuana. However, Zagury was clear that Traore was not sufficiently intoxicated at the time of the attack to be absolved of criminal responsibility — a key demand of Traore’s lawyers.
In a statement, French Jewish representative body CRIF said it was “relieved” and “satisfied” with the announcement, which coincided with the Jewish New Year on Wednesday last week. Francis Kalifat, CRIF’s head, said that if a judge was to uphold the prosecutors’ position, then “the trial of the murderer must also be the trial of the antisemitism that murders in France. ”
Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer for the Halimi family, pointed out that he had consistently urged that the murder be regarded as an antisemitic crime — on July 10, after spending over two months under psychiatric observation, Traore was charged with “voluntary manslaughter” and “kidnapping,” but the antisemitic aspect of the murder was ignored.
“Of course I am satisfied, but it seemed to me to be obvious,” Goldnadel commented on the prosecutors’ decision. “Better late than never.”
Thomas Bidnic, Traore’s lawyer, accused the prosecutor of following “the direction of the wind” — a reference to the outpouring of public anger over Halimi’s murder, which was virtually ignored by the French media in its immediate aftermath because of concern that too much coverage might boost the electoral chances of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate who was resoundingly defeated by centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 presidential election.
“I do not really see anything new in the record — my client refutes all charges of antisemitism,” Bidnic was quoted as saying by the French newspaper Liberation.