Affaire Sarah Halimi: Why the brutal murder of a Jewish woman in Paris could now be tried in Israel

A high-profile and horrifying murder case in France could now be the subject of a court case in Israel, after the victim's sister said the French justice system had failed.

Affaire Sarah Halimi: Why the brutal murder of a Jewish woman in Paris could now be tried in Israel
France's highest court the Cour de Cassation has ruled that the killer cannot stand trial. Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP

What happened?

Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman was murdered in her apartment in Paris in 2017.

The brutality of the attack – retired doctor and mother-of-three Halimi was beaten before being thrown out of the window – shocked and appalled France, but the killer was quickly apprehended.

Kobili Traore, 27, who lived in the same building, has been in secure psychiatric custody ever since the murder.

What about a trial?

This is where the case gets controversial – there has never been any doubt that Traore killed Halimi and that he was a heavy cannabis smoker, but opinions have differed over whether he was fit to stand trial for the murder.

After hearing from experts, the French court ruled that he committed the killing after succumbing to cannabis psychosis and was thus not responsible for his actions. He was therefore remanded into psychiatric care, where he remains.

This ruling was appealed to the highest French court the Cour de cassation, which upheld the ruling that Traore was not fit to stand trial.

Halimi’s family and Jewish groups have called for the case to be tried as an anti-Semitic hate crime, as Traore was heard to shout Allahu-Akbar (God is great) as he attacked his victim.

Jewish groups said the court ruling had made Jews less safe in France, while lawyers representing Halimi’s family said they intend to refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Is there any chance of a trial now in France?

There are growing calls to change the law in this area, including from the French president Emmanuel Macron

“Deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ should, not in my view, remove your criminal responsibility,” Macron told Le Figaro in an interview published Monday.

“I would like Justice Minister (Eric Dupond-Moretti) to present a change in the law as soon as possible,” he added.

But the case could move to Israel?

Criminal law in Israel can apply to crimes of anti-Semitism committed abroad when complaints are filed by Israeli citizens – in this case Sarah Halimi’s sister Esther Lekover.

Lawyers Francis Szpiner and Gilles-William Goldnadel said in a statement late on Wednesday they would “take a complaint to Israeli courts against Kobili Traore in the name of Esther Lekover, the victim’s sister”.

But, as a rule, France does not extradite its citizens.

Is there any other controversy around the case?

Yes, the French police came in for heavy criticism for their response to calls for help from Halimi’s frantic neighbours as the attack took place. They first went to the wrong address then waited outside the building until an elite squad arrived as Traore continued to attack her before finally throwing her out of the window.

For several months authorities hesitated to label the killing as an anti-Semitic attack, prompting criticism from several public figures who said the case demonstrated that anti-Semitism was not taken seriously enough by French authorities.

Member comments

  1. Seriously? the Local France has become a Zionist collaborator. Just because someone is of Arabic descent or speaks Arabic DOES NOT AUTOMATCIALLY make them a terrorist, nor their actions “terrorism.” ANYONE can be a terrorist. A French National, a Isreali -French person, a priest, a white person… ANYONE. Today’s edition features TWO articles essentially perpetuating systematic racism and religion bias. Similarly… just because some is Jewish does not mean that a crime or comment about them DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY mean it’s anti-Semitism. Saying so is hypocritical, unethical, bad journalism, and just plain wrong. Simply UNACCEPTABLE.

    We’ve suspected that the Local France was a bit too Zionist propaganda and today proves it. VERY disappointed.

    1. Sounds like the shouting of “Allahu Akbar” was a bit of a clue then.

      More correct is Macron saying he wants the law strengthened so those who take illegal drugs remain responsible for their crimes. It does sound as though a criminal who took a drug which is not generally known for making people aggressive, has been continuing to hide behind this inaccurate excuse for too long.

      Under those circumstances where – regardless of the victim’s religion French justice has failed – then do you blame the victim’s country for trying to get justice? regardless of that country’s religion.

      I think that is the point of the article.

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French tax agent ‘kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit’

A French tax inspector was kidnapped and killed, reportedly while carrying out a tax audit in a village in northern France on Monday evening.

French tax agent 'kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit'

The 43-year-old tax agent died on Monday night in northern France, with local media Actu Pas-de-Calais reporting that he was killed by the man whom he was auditing, who later died by suicide.

Emergency services were called to the small village of Bullecourt in the Pas-de-Calais département of northern France at around 8pm. Upon arriving they found two men dead and a woman, reported to be another employee of the tax office, tied up.

She was not believed to be seriously injured but was treated for shock. 

The public prosecutor released a statement saying that both tax agents “were carrying out an at-home audit to check the accounts” of the local man reported to be a brocanteur (antique dealer), who then “kidnapped them and tied them up.” 

“The accused then killed himself with a firearm,” according to the prosecutor’s office. 

The mayor of Bullecourt, a small village of 250 inhabitants, told AFP that he remembered the accused antique dealer as a “helpful” and “ordinary person” who had “integrated into the village.”

Gabriel Attal, the Public Accounts Minister, issued a statement on Monday evening expressing his condolences and saying that the tax agent “was simply doing his job” and that “today, he did not return.” The minister lamented that the agent was “killed while completing a tax audit.”