Fallout of Decision to Excuse Accused Antisemitic Killer of Sarah Halimi From Trial Continues to Rock France
The fallout from last week’s decision by France’s highest court to excuse from trial the accused antisemitic killer of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman murdered in her Paris apartment in April 2017, has continued to rock French politics, with a leader of the country’s main environmentalist party attracting strong criticism for expressing his support for the court’s announcement.
In a statement on Sunday, Julien Bayou — national secretary of France’s Green Party — said that while he “understood the turmoil in the Jewish community” over the decision, under French law “we do not judge the insensible.”
Continued Bayou: “Justice is not revenge.”
Halimi’s killer, Kobili Traore, will not face trial after judges accepted a psychiatric assessment that his intake of marijuana on the night of the murder had eliminated his “discernment,” or ability to judge between right and wrong. The French penal code considers that someone in this mental state cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions, even if they entered this state through the voluntary consumption of narcotics.
Several politicians reacted to Bayou’s comment by pointing out that anger over the Court of Cassation’s decision was not restricted to the Jewish community.
“It is the nation that was moved by the lack of a judgment for the murderer of Sarah Halimi!” exclaimed Valérie Pécresse — the president of the Île-de-France region, where Paris is located — in a Twitter post. “Defend our nation, one and indivisible. This is France, a France that some people keep dividing and fracturing.”
A spokesperson for the French government, Gabriel Attal, echoed this view. “There is a very strong emotion among all the French,” Attal told broadcaster Europe 1 on Monday.
Marine Le Pen — founder of the far-right National Rally party, which is itself frequently accused of antisemitism — also entered the fray, charging that “the leaders of the left are shrinking the nation by their communitarianism. Why are they turning their backs on our republican principles?”
Bayou later clarified his comments, saying that he had made his observations as a lawyer. “But clearly, this verdict shocked us all,” he said. “When a Jew is attacked, all of France is attacked. I spoke of the Jewish community specifically because the Jews in France are particularly affected by these increasingly barbaric acts that are more and more numerous.”