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May 28, 2018 12:23 pm

15 Years After Brutal Murder of Jewish DJ in Paris, French President Macron Recognizes It as Antisemitic Crime

avatar by Ben Cohen

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French-Jewish DJ Sébastien Selam pictured in his home studio before his murder in December 2003. Photo: Selam family.

Fifteen years after France’s Jewish community was shell-shocked by the murder of a young Jewish musician whose killer proudly told relatives, “I killed a Jew! I will go to heaven!”, French President Emmanuel Macron has finally recognized the antisemitic nature of the crime.

In a letter to French-Jewish parliamentarian Meyer Habib, Macron said that France would continue to solemnly remember the victims of antisemitic violence — specifically citing the November 2003 “barbaric murder” of 22-year-old Sébastien Selam.

In the same letter, details of which were released on Monday, Macron underlined that the brutal murder in March this year of Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor who lived alone in Paris, had revived earlier memories of Selam, “this young Frenchman who fell under the blows of the darkest fanaticism.”

In 2010, Selam’s killer, 26-year-old Adel Amastaibou, was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial, despite pleas from the Selam family that the murder be recognized as an antisemitic hate crime. The killing took place in December 2003, after Selam — who performed in Paris nightclubs as DJ Lam C — had parked his car in the garage beneath his mother’s Paris apartment. Spotting Amastaibou, a childhood friend, Selam stopped to greet him. In the ensuing assault, Amastaibou slit Selam’s throat and gouged out his eyes using a knife and fork.

Amastaibou then ran to his mother’s apartment, where he told her “I killed a Jew! I will go to heaven!” When police arrived, he said to the arresting officers, “Allah told me to do it.”

However, Amastaibou’s later claim that he had been following external “voices … I was not in control” persuaded French judicial officials that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and therefore of diminished legal responsibility. That ruling infuriated French Jews, who pointed out that the Selam family had been subjected to a campaign of antisemitic harassment in the weeks prior to the murder, and that Amastaibou already possessed a conviction for a previous assault upon a rabbi.

The murder of Selam was an early example of the trend in French courts to categorize as mentally unfit those accused of engaging in antisemitic violence. More recently, the investigation into the gruesome March 2017 murder of another Parisian Jewish pensioner, Sarah Halimi — by a Muslim assailant who recited the words “Allahu Akhbar!” as he tortured his victim — appeared to be going in the same direction. On Feb. 27, however, prosecutors announced that Halimi’s killer, 27-year-old Kobili Traore, would stand trial for an antisemitic hate crime after all.

In a tweet displaying a copy of the letter from Macron, Habib said that the French president had stated “in the clearest way the anti-Semitic character of the ‘barbaric murder’ of Sébastien Selam  in 2003. 15 years later, the family will be able to grieve.”

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