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April 4, 2019 3:21 pm

On Second Anniversary of Sarah Halimi’s Murder, French Jewish Leader Calls for Killer to Face Trial for Antisemitic Crime

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

Two years after the antisemitic murder of the French Jewish pensioner Sarah Halimi in her Paris apartment, the head of the French Jewish community has issued an angry condemnation of the latest obstacle in the quest to bring her killer to trial.

“We do not understand these delays in presenting this killer as a lunatic, when he is a terrorist whose alleged insanity cannot conceal [his] hateful antisemitism,” Francis Kalifat — president of the French Jewish communal organization CRIF — declared in a statement released on Thursday to mark the second anniversary of Halimi’s brutal death.

Halimi was subjected to a frenzied beating and then hurled from a third floor window in the early hours of Apr. 4, 2017, by an intruder, 27-year-old Kobili Traore, who lived in the same public housing project in eastern Paris as the 66-year-old widow.

Terrified neighbors who alerted police after hearing her cries for help reported that Traore had shouted the words “Allahu Akhbar” and “Shaitan” (Arabic for “Satan”) during Halimi’s ordeal. Police investigations later revealed that Halimi had told relatives that she was scared of Traore, who insulted her visiting daughter as a “dirty Jewess” a few weeks before the murder.

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Traore’s lawyers, however, have insisted throughout that their client was too intoxicated from his ingestion of cannabis to be held responsible for his actions. On March 20, a third psychiatric report commissioned by the investigating judge in the Halimi case concurred with this assessment, arguing that Traore’s consumption of cannabis had eliminated his “discernment” (a clinical term for “judgment.”)

Kalifat echoed the earlier criticism of the report expressed by Halimi’s family and lawyers in his Thursday statement.

“Sarah Halimi was not murdered because she happened to be in the killer’s way, or because she lived in the same building, or because she was a nursery school director, or because she had money,” Kalifat remarked. “No, Sarah Halimi was murdered because she was Jewish and for that reason alone.”

Arguing that Traore’s act should be properly understood as an incident of Islamist terrorism, Kalifat continued: “Sarah will remain one more victim of this new hatred of Jews that has been developing in our country since the early 2000s.”

Invoking the Italian word “omerta” — the vow of silence sworn by criminals inducted into the Mafia — Kalifat pointed out that the reluctance of the French authorities to prosecute Halimi’s death as an antisemitic hate crime was established very soon after she was murdered. This stance was fueled by much of the French media, which largely ignored Halimi’s murder until the French presidential elections of May 2017 were over.

In July of that year, the newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron finally broke the government’s silence over Halimi’s death, when he urged the country’s judiciary to “bring total clarity around the death of Sarah Halimi.”

In those same comments, Macron implicitly criticized the widespread denial in France that Halimi’s murder was an antisemitic act, saying that “we were silent, because we did not want to see.”

Yet two years on, Kalifat said, “this despicable crime is still not recognized as [an antisemitic murder.]”

Only when that recognition is formally made “can Sarah rest in peace and her family start grieving,” Kalifat concluded.

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