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February 27, 2018 4:23 pm

Brutal Murder of French Jewish Pensioner Sarah Halimi Will Be Prosecuted as Antisemitic Hate Crime After All, French Court Decides

avatar by Ben Cohen

Murdered French-Jewish pensioner Sarah Halimi. Photo: Halimi family.

The brutal murder in April 2017 of a French Jewish pensioner by an Islamist assailant will be prosecuted as an antisemitic hate crime after all, the judge investigating the case announced on Tuesday.

French news outlets reported that the investigating judge decided to retain the charge as an “aggravating circumstance” after hearing directly on Tuesday from Kobili Traore — the 27-year-old Malian immigrant who subjected 65-year-old Sarah Halimi to a severe beating after breaking into her Paris apartment. He later threw Halimi out of a third-floor window to her death.

The announcement will come as welcome news to the French Jewish community, which had been deeply concerned by an earlier judicial decision in January to revisit the antisemitism charge on the grounds of Traore’s alleged mental health problems. In an interview this week with the French Jewish news outlet Actualité Juive, Muriel Ouaknine Melki — a lawyer who represents Halimi’s brother, William Attal — emphasized that “the way in which Sarah was slaughtered shows a characteristic, specific hatred, which unfortunately our experience of antisemitic cases now allows us to identify fairly quickly.”

Melki’s advocacy group, the Organization Europeenne Juive (OJE–European Jewish Organization), has been battling the claim that antisemitism was incidental to Halimi’s murder from the very beginning. On Sunday, March 4, the OJE will hold a special event at a Paris synagogue to commemorate Halimi, with speakers including the chief rabbi of Paris, Michel Gugenheim.

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While the alleged antisemitic motivation behind Halimi’s murder was largely ignored by the French media for several weeks, by the middle of 2017 those urging that the case be treated as a hate crime included newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. A psychiatric report on Traore issued last September concluded that while he had ingested large quantities of cannabis before the murder, he was nonetheless aware of the nature of his crime.

Melki asserted in her interview that Halimi “would be murdered a second time if the judiciary refuses to recognize the antisemitic nature of her homicide.”

Claiming that Traore had twice visited a mosque frequented by radical Islamists the day before Halimi’s murder, Melki added that the Islamist slogans he was heard chanting during the assault were “further proof of the real motivation behind this barbaric crime.”

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