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April 9, 2019 2:50 pm

Leading French Intellectuals Urge Criminal Trial for ‘Antisemitic’ Killer of Sarah Halimi

avatar by Ben Cohen

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

Thirty-nine of France’s leading intellectuals have signed an impassioned editorial in one of the country’s leading newspapers calling for the killer of Sarah Halimi — the 65-year-old Jewish widow brutally murdered in her Paris apartment in an antisemitic attack — to finally face trial, more than two years after the crime was committed.

The editorial, published on Monday afternoon by Le Figaro, carried the signatures of several high-profile writers and academics, including philosophers Élisabeth de Fontenay, Alain Finkielkraut and Elisabeth Badinter, and historians Pierre-André Taguieff and Jacques Julliard. Journalist Noémie Halioua, author of the first detailed account of Halimi’s murder and its political fallout, was also among the signatories.

Prompted by the appearance of a new psychiatric report claiming that Halimi’s killer, 29-year-old Kobili Traore, is mentally unfit to stand trial for murder, the editorial detailed at length the sorry timeline of events from her murder in the early hours of April 4, 2017 to the present impasse in the French legal system.

The editorial argued that “in the hours and days before the crime, the police learned that Traore had frequented the Salafist mosque on rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud,” and that he had subjected both Halimi and her visiting relatives to antisemitic insults in the hallways of the public housing building in eastern Paris where both killer and victim lived.

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“All this was embarrassing in the middle of the [2017 French] presidential election, and the candidates like the general media ignored the event,” the editorial stated. Halimi’s death, it continued, was immediately seen as a matter for the Jewish community, “as if Sarah Halimi was not, first of all, a French citizen.”

Charging that Anne Ihuellou, the investigating judge in the Halimi case, has been more concerned with Traore’s defense, the editorial described the killer as “an offender with multiple convictions known in his neighborhood, feared in his building.” A drug dealer and compulsive user of cannabis, Traore had previously served four prison sentences — including a one-year-term completed shortly before he murdered Halimi — the editorial continued.

Two psychiatric reports commissioned by Ihuellou concluded Traore was too delirious from the effects of cannabis ingestion to be held legally responsible for Halimi’s murder — during which he subjected his victim to a vicious beating while shouting Islamic slogans, before hurling her from a third-floor window onto the street below. However, the editorial countered that Traore had no documented history of mental illness, and was never identified as suffering from a mental disorder in any of the French prisons where he was incarcerated.

“Is psychiatry the new tool for denying reality?” the editorial asked pointedly.

The Le Figaro editorial concluded by restating the demand for a criminal trial expressed earlier this month by Halimi’s family and lawyers, as well as by Francis Kalifat, president of the Jewish communal body CRIF. The editorial added that while Traore could still be acquitted in a jury trial, “there would [at least] be a trial, [with] contradictory arguments — hope, at least, that Sarah Halimi, the victim of a barbaric antisemitic assassination, will receive justice.”

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