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April 19, 2021 11:32 am
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French President Macron Seeks to Reassure Angry, Disappointed Jewish Community After Top Court Decides Against Trial of Accused Antisemitic Killer

avatar by Ben Cohen

A postcard campaign calling for justice for Sarah Halimi addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: courtesy of Israelite Consistoire of Haut-Rhin

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a change in his country’s laws on criminal responsibility, following last week’s decision by France’s highest appeal court to excuse from trial the accused antisemitic murderer of a Jewish woman on the ground that his intake of cannabis supposedly rendered him temporarily insane on the night of the killing.

Speaking to the newspaper Le Figaro on Sunday, the French president was asked about last Wednesday’s decision by the Court of Cassation not to try Kobili Traore for the brutal murder of Sarah Halimi in April 2017. The court argued that since Traore had imbibed what it termed an “acute delirious puff” on a marijuana joint that eliminated his “discernment” — or self-awareness — he could not “be judged criminally even when his mental state was caused by the regular consumption of drugs.”

Macron argued that the use of narcotics should not be a reason to remove the criminal liability of an offender.

“Deciding to take narcotics and then going ‘like crazy’ should not in my eyes remove your criminal responsibility,” Macron stated during the interview. “On this subject, I would like the Minister of Justice to present a change in the law as soon as possible.”

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Macron also sought to reassure France’s Jewish community that they had his understanding and sympathy. Jewish leaders reacted furiously to the court’s decision, with Francis Kalifat — president of Jewish representative body CRIF — tweeting, “now in our country, we can torture and kill Jews with impunity.”

“It is not for me to comment on a court decision, but I would like to tell the family, relatives of the victim and all our fellow citizens of the Jewish faith who were awaiting this trial, my warm support and the determination of the Republic to protect them,” Macron said. “In the Republic, we do not judge citizens who are sick and no longer have discernment, we treat them. But deciding to take drugs and then becoming ‘like crazy’ should not in my eyes remove your criminal responsibility.”

During a visit to Israel in Jan. 2020, one month after a lower court deemed that Traore was unfit for trial, Macron told a group of French Jews in Jerusalem that when it came to the Halimi case, “the need for a trial is there.”

This remark earned him the rebuke of the Court of Cassation’s top officials, who reminded Macron that “the independence of the judiciary is an essential condition for the functioning of democracy.”

In a separate development on Monday, Sarah Halimi’s brother confirmed that lawyers for the family would try to appeal the case before the European Court of Human Rights.

“I will continue fighting, our family will continue fighting,” William Attal said in an interview with broadcaster I-24.

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