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'There is no justice in France for Jews'

Sister of murdered French Jewish woman Sarah Halimi asks Israel to try case

Lawyers file antisemitism complaint with Israel Police after French court decided killer won’t stand trial because he had used drugs; however, France doesn’t extradite its citizens

Justice for Sarah Halimi placards, April 2021 (Crédit : Consistoire israélite du Haut-Rhin)
Justice for Sarah Halimi placards, April 2021 (Crédit : Consistoire israélite du Haut-Rhin)

The sister of Sarah Halimi — an Orthodox Jewish woman who was murdered in Paris in 2017 — has reportedly filed a criminal complaint in Israel against the killer, after he avoided being tried in France on the grounds that was not criminally responsible because he had smoked marijuana before the crime.

The move, reported Wednesday by the Ynet news site, appears to be the first time someone has utilized a law allowing Israeli citizens to file complaints in the Jewish state about antisemitic crimes committed abroad.

However, the move is largely symbolic since as a rule, France does not extradite its citizens to other countries.

Halimi, 65, was beaten and then pushed out of the window of her Paris flat by neighbor Kobili Traore, 27, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic).

But in an April decision, the French Court of Cassation’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld rulings by lower tribunals that Traore could not stand trial because he was too high on marijuana to be criminally responsible for his actions.

Traore, a heavy pot smoker, has been in psychiatric care since Halimi’s death. The court said he committed the killing after succumbing to a “delirious fit” and was thus not responsible for his actions.

Lawyers Francis Szpiner and Gilles-William Goldnadel told Ynet that they were now taking the legal battle against Traore to Israeli courts in the name of Esther Lekover, Halimi’s sister.

Sarah Halimi was beaten before she was thrown off her Paris apartment building’s roof in April 2017. (Courtesy of the Halimi family)

Criminal law in Israel can apply to crimes of antisemitism committed abroad when complaints are filed by Israeli citizens, such as Lekover.

Following the French court’s verdict, lawyers representing Halimi’s family said they intended to refer the case to both Israeli courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

After criticizing a lower court’s insanity finding in January last year, drawing a sharp riposte from the country’s top magistrates, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed support for the battle to bring Traore to trial for the killing following the Court of Cassation’s April ruling.

Macron said he would seek a change to laws to prevent such a case from happening again. Macron said that taking drugs and “going crazy” should not take away criminal responsibility.

“It’s not for me to comment on a court decision, but I would like to express to the family, to the relatives of the victim, and to all our Jewish citizens who were waiting for a trial, my warm support and the Republic’s determination to protect them,” Macron told Le Figaro in April.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a joint press conference with President Reuven Rivlin, after a working lunch, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on March 18, 2021. (Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had also blasted the ruling, telling The Times of Israel at the time: “Sarah Halimi was murdered for clearly antisemitic motivations, for the sole reason that she was a Jew. This was a despicable murder that harmed not only the victim herself and her family, but also the entire Jewish community’s sense of security.”

Stoking debate over a new strain of antisemitism among radicalized Muslim youths in predominantly immigrant neighborhoods, the handling of Halimi’s slaying has been a watershed event for many French Jews, who say it underlines the French state’s failures in dealing with antisemitism.

French Jews have been repeatedly targeted by jihadists in recent years, most notably in 2012, when an Islamist gunman shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse and in 2015 when a pro-Islamic State terrorist gunned down four people at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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