By Cnaan Liphshiz
PARIS (JTA) – Thousands of protesters, many of them Jewish, gathered in the French capital to protest the judiciary’s decision not to try a man who killed his Jewish neighbor while shouting about Allah.
Under the banner of “Justice for Sarah Halimi,” the rally Sunday at Trocadero Square overlooking the Eiffel Tower reflected the widespread indignation of many French Jews at the April 14 ruling by their country’s highest court. It affirmed lower tribunals’ findings that that woman’s killer, Kobili Traore, was unfit to stand trial for his actions on April 4, 2017 in Paris because his consumption of marijuana had made him temporarily psychotic.
Critics of this ruling cited apparent composure by Traore, an immigrant from Mali who was 27 when he killed Halimi, a physician in her 60s. Traore, whom a lower court said targeted Halimi because she was Jewish, called her a demon as he pummeled her in her third-story apartment, which he entered by force.
He then threw her out the window and shouted: “A lady fell down from the window!” to cover up his actions, witnesses said. He left the scene, allegedly to escape it, and was arrested on a nearby street.
Others argue that even if Traore was psychotic, he was criminally liable when he took the drugs that made him psychotic and should therefore stand trial. He has no documented history of psychiatric problems.
At the rally in Paris, which was held under tight security arrangements in a cordoned-off enclosure set up on Trocadero Square, CRIF played a video on a giant screen in which French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia demanding another “trial of facts”, even if it ends without a sentence.
The rally Sunday is the first time in decades that a large number of French Jews have gathered to protest against organs or actions of the French state.
Jacques Essebag, a French-Jewish comedian who is known by the stage name Arthur, in a video message said he has “decided to start using drugs because in France you can do whatever you want, even kill your neighbor if you don’t like her, if you use drugs.” He then added: “What has become of this country.”
The event featured many Israeli flags, French ones and those of the far-right Jewish Defense League.
The video message of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, a Socialist politician, provoked whistles and booing from many protestors at the event.
Organized by the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, the rally is “to show our astonishment at a decision that conforms to the the law, but not to justice,” CRIF wrote.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he would advance legislation to prevent criminals from avoiding trial by using an insanity defense for actions committed under the influence of drugs.
Some Jewish organizations have used harsh language, including the conservative Europe-Israel group, about the case, calling the Halimi trial “the new Dreyfus Trial.” It’s a reference to the antisemitic treason charges leveled at a French-Jewish soldier in 1894, and which many to this day believe showed that French society and European societies in general are too antisemitic to allow Jews to truly integrate.
In addition to the rally in Paris, additional protest rallies are planned to take place on Sunday in Marseille, Strasbourg and Lyon. Abroad, rallies are scheduled to be held in Washington DC, Los Angeles and Miami in the Unites States as well as Rome, Italy. In London, Tel Aviv and The Hague rallies will take place in front of the French embassies in those cities, organizers said.
Main Photo: The building where Sarah Halimi was killed in Paris, France, pictured on April 24, 2021. (Cnaan Liphshiz)