‘I Can Truly Understand the Emotion’: French Justice Minister Offers Cautious Reassurance on Criminal Trial for Sarah Halimi’s Killer
France’s justice minister told a leading Jewish newspaper this week that she was “particularly touched” by the case of Sarah Halimi — the 65-year-old Jewish woman who was brutally beaten and murdered by her Muslim neighbor in a public housing project in April 2o17.
Saying that she could “truly understand the emotion caused by this crime,” Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet nevertheless emphasized that she could not comment directly on the widely-protested decision by Paris prosecutors to excuse from trial Halimi’s accused murderer, Kobili Traore, on the grounds that he was delirious from his intake of cannabis on the night of the killing and therefore not criminally responsible.
Speaking with the newspaper Actualite Juive, Belloubet said that legal reforms undertaken in 2013 now prevented her, in her capacity as justice minister, “from issuing instructions to public prosecutors in individual cases.”
Belloubet nevertheless made the observation that “smoking cannabis does not give you a license to kill, to use an expression I have often heard in recent days.”
She continued: “This is an incredibly painful case that clearly raises a question of legal interpretation. That is why an appeal has been lodged with the Court of Cassation. It will provide an answer to this question.”
The Court of Cassation is the highest court in the French legal system.
Pledging “total commitment” to the fight against antisemitism, Belloubet said she was “determined that criminal sentencing should be particularly firm in responding to antisemitic acts.”
She added that judges were increasingly ready to impose custodial sentences for racist and antisemitic acts, claiming that “in recent years, on average, the courts have handed down between 400 and 500 sentences per year, including firm prison sentences” for such crimes.