French Jews Furious as New Obstacle Emerges to Future Trial of Jewish Pensioner’s Antisemitic Killer
France’s Jewish community has reacted with fury to a panel of psychiatric experts’ determination that the young man charged with the brutal murder of a Jewish pensioner in Paris is mentally unfit to stand trial for his crime.
Lawyers for the family of Sarah Halimi — a 65-year-old widow who was savagely beaten and thrown to her death from a third-floor window by an intruder in the early hours of Apr. 4, 2017 — were informed on Wednesday that, according to the psychiatric panel, her accused killer, 27-year-old Kobili Traore, lacked the mental awareness required for a charge of intentional homicide aggravated by antisemitic prejudice.
The panel’s finding flatly contradicted the conclusion of a previous expert, Dr. Daniel Zagury, who examined Traore in September 2017. As The Algemeiner reported at the time, Zagury deemed that Traore’s assault on Halimi was both “antisemitic” and a “delirious act” influenced by the assailant’s 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.
On Thursday, Francis Kalifat — president of CRIF, the principal French Jewish communal body — decried the prospect that Halimi’s murderer might not have to face a public trial after all.
“This report closes the door to the trial we were waiting for and plunges Sarah Halimi’s children and family into utter disarray,” Kalifat said in a statement.
Kalifat added that the announcement of the panel’s conclusion had “interrupted the difficult and painful work of mourning [for Halimi] that was begun at the announcement of the recognition of the antisemitic nature of this murder.”
For several weeks after Halimi’s ordeal, France’s bitterly-contested presidential election ensured a wall of media silence around her fate, while French authorities insisted that Traore’s apparent mental illness disqualified him from the charge of antisemitism. In February this year, a court in Paris finally decided that Traore could be prosecuted for an antisemitic hate crime.
“We do not understand the obstinacy and procrastination of trying to paint this killer as a lunatic, when he is a murderer whose alleged dementia can not hide his hateful antisemitism,” Kalifat declared.
Pointing out that Halimi had been subjected to verbal antisemitic abuse from Traore, her neighbor, prior to her murder, Kalifat emphasized that the pensioner was without doubt “the victim of an antisemitic crime.”
Gilles-William Goldnadel, one of the lawyers representing the Halimi family, was similarly outraged. “In my long career, I have never seen an instruction to exculpate the accused at this point [in the legal process],” Goldnadel told broadcaster Europe 1.
The Halimi family’s legal team now fears that instead of trial and imprisonment for murder, Traore will be sent directly to a psychiatric hospital that can release him should doctors determine he no longer constitutes a threat.
The uncertainty over Traore’s potential criminal trial is likely to stretch out for several weeks. The investigating judge in the Halimi case has now ordered a third psychiatric appraisal of Traore’s mental health before a decision can be made.