French Jews Express ‘Dismay’ and ‘Indignation’ as Accused Antisemitic Killer of Sarah Halimi Evades Criminal Trial
The murderer of an elderly Jewish woman in her Paris apartment in April 2017 was excused a criminal trial by French prosecutors on Thursday, on the grounds that his intake of cannabis on the night of the killing had rendered him temporarily insane.
The decision by the Court of Appeal in Paris means that Kobili Traore — who brutally slew 65-year-old Sarah Halimi while shouting religious slogans — will not have to account before the law for a crime that he both admitted to and apologized for in a court appearance at the end of last month.
Although it was expected, the court’s decision nonetheless angered the French Jewish community — whose leaders have spent much of this year countering the claim of a court-appointed psychiatrist that Traore’s heavy ingestion of cannabis temporarily wiped out his awareness and his judgement.
In a statement that immediately followed the Court of Appeal’s announcement, CRIF — the representative body of France’s Jewish community — expressed its “dismay and indignation.”
“Is an antisemitic crime the only crime that is excused by the judiciary because of massive drug-taking, whereas in all other crimes the judiciary would consider that to be an aggravating circumstance?” asked CRIF’s President Francis Kalifat pointedly.
Traore — who lived in the same public housing project in eastern Paris as Halimi, a child development expert who lived alone — broke into her apartment during the early morning hours of April 4, 2017.
Terrified neighbors who alerted police after hearing Halimi’s cries for help reported that Traore had shouted the words, “Allahu akhbar,” and, “Shaitan” (Arabic for “Satan”), as he rained kicks and punches on his victim, before picking up her bruised body and throwing her out of the window.
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.
Traore’s lawyers, however, have insisted throughout the initial legal process that their client was too intoxicated from his ingestion of cannabis to be held responsible for his actions. In March of this year, 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”).
At the root of the medical row is the question of whether Traore — a petty criminal with previous convictions who had also attended a local mosque frequented by Islamists — was able to control his cannabis habit of 12 years.
Dr. Daniel Zagury, who examined Traore on five separate occasions, concluded that the accused killer had chosen on his own accord to smoke large amounts of the drug on the night in question, and could therefore stand trial for Halimi’s murder.
But the two other psychiatric reports commissioned on Traore disagreed with this assessment, with a team led by Dr. Paul Bensussan countering that “Mr. Traore, like all addicted patients, was not so free to consume deliberately.”