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July 19, 2019 10:26 am

France’s Outrageous Handling of Sarah Halimi’s Murder

avatar by Oudy Bloch

Opinion

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

A brief reminder if there was still any need: on the night of April 3, 2017, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, was surprised in her sleep by Kobili Traore, her 20-year-old Muslim neighbor. He tortured her for 20 minutes while shouting, “Allahu Akbar,” and other gruesome insults, before throwing her out of a window.

After a two-year investigation — during which the aggravating circumstance of antisemitism was barely mentioned, and the various demands of the plaintiffs were all rejected — the investigating judges finally found that the perpetrator was likely to be criminally irresponsible because of drug use, among other things. They ordered the case be referred to the investigating chamber so that it could come to a decision on the issue.

Not surprisingly, the investigating judges believe that the aggravating circumstance of antisemitism is no longer relevant.

Preposterous? Not really, considering what turned out to be a rather chaotic investigation, to say the least.

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And yet.

And yet the three psychiatric expert opinions contradict each other both on Mr. Traore’s examination and on the medical conclusions.

And yet Traore was well aware of the arrival of the police at the crime scene, yelling at them that a woman was about to commit suicide before he threw her out of the window. This cynical anticipation of his legal defense did not raise the investigating judges’ curiosity.

And yet Traore lived for 20 years just below Ms. Halimi’s flat, on the second floor of a building in which all the occupants knew that the victim was Jewish.

And yet Traore acknowledged that the sight of a Jewish seven-branch candlestick and a Hebrew prayer book had made him even more aggressive.

And yet Traore used to attend the Omar Mosque on Jean-Pierre Timbaud Street, known for its Salafist connections, and was still there almost immediately before the murder.

And yet Traore would go home from time to time by climbing up the balconies as he did the night of the crime to enter Ms. Halimi’s apartment, and torture and muder her.

And yet Traore would smoke cannabis very often. And now, as if by a wave of a magic wand, this aggravating circumstance makes him not responsible for the murder of Ms. Halimi.

Reckless drivers and terrorists can sleep safe at night — because, today in France, taking too many psychotropic drugs may well absolve them of their crimes and misdemeanors, as long as it triggers an acute delirium outburst, as diagnosed by the psychiatric experts. It does not matter that the effects of alcoholic and cannabinoid drunkenness have been well known for so long.

If Traore is found not responsible for the murder, we must consider the security measures that will be applied to him — psychiatric confinement.

Regarding such a hospitalization, three examples among others are rather worrying as to the modalities and duration of the measures to be implemented.

In November 2003, the young Sebastien Sellam was killed by his childhood Muslim friend in circumstances similar to Ms Halimi’s murder (abject crime, antisemitic claim by the killer himself, aggravating circumstances). Considered criminally irresponsible, the murderer was not incarcerated, but placed under restraint in a psychiatric hospital. A few years later, he was allowed to leave the hospital on occasion.

On November 12, 2008, a 56-year-old man, institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital for chronic delusional psychosis — and already known for stabbings — escaped without difficulty from the facility’s park during one of his authorized and unsupervised outings. A few kilometers away, he bought a knife and randomly killed a student in the street — Luc Meunier, 26 years-old.

Most recently, in April 2019, a 24-year-old male was arrested for the double murder of his father and grandmother, three years after being declared criminally irresponsible for the murder of his mother. He had been released from patient detention in December 2018.

How will we explain to Ms. Halimi’s family that Mr. Traore will not face justice. And what will we say if he kills again?

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