French President Macron Rebuked by Top Judicial Officials After Urging Trial for Antisemitic Murder of Sarah Halimi
French President Emmanuel Macron was locked in a dispute with senior representatives of his country’s judiciary on Monday, after earlier expressing support for putting the alleged antisemitic murderer of a Jewish woman on trial.
In a speech to French Jews in Jerusalem last Thursday, Macron addressed the widely-condemned Dec. 2019 decision by prosecutors in Paris to excuse the accused killer, 29-year-old Kobili Traore, from a criminal trial.
The prosecutors deemed that Traore’s intake of cannabis on the night that he tortured and murdered Sarah Halimi — his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor — had rendered him delusional and therefore criminally not responsible for his actions.
In his remarks in Israel, Macron appeared to disagree with that ruling.
“Even if, in the end, the judge had to decide that criminal responsibility is not there, the need for a trial is there,” the French president said.
That assertion resulted in stern reminder for Macron of the independent status of the French system of justice from two of its leading representatives.
In a written statement on Monday, Chantal Arens and François Molins — respectively the first president and the attorney general of the Cassation Court, France’s highest — emphasized that “the independence of the judiciary is an essential condition for the functioning of democracy.”
Continued the statement: “The magistrates of the Court of Cassation must be able to examine with complete peace of mind and in complete independence the appeals before them.”
The Court of Cassation is presently considering whether to overrule the Paris prosecutors by sending Traore for trial. Their deliberations will likely be the final step in a legal process that has dragged on for nearly three years, causing heartache to the Halimi family and rising anger among French Jews.
In his Jerusalem speech, however, Macron suggested that his personal feelings about the Halimi case sat uneasily with the official requirements of his post.
“I cannot speak to you from the heart, because I am the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary, of the cardinal principles of our Criminal Code,” Macron noted.
In the wake of Halimi’s murder — which occurred two months before Macron’s election — he said, “I received so many letters, heard so much excitement, saw so much rage and anger at the idea that justice will never be done.”
Macron then noted an appeal had already been lodged by Halimi’s lawyers with the Court of Cassation, observing that “this constitutes a possible way forward under the law.”
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 Islamist slogans 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.
The country’s chief rabbi, Haim Korsia, was among those who condemned the decision to excuse Traore from trial because of his drug use, calling it a “license to kill Jews” in France.