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 police shoot dead knife-wielding man at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

French Border police at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris shot - and killed - man who was wielding a knife in the public area of the airport on Wednesday.

French police shoot dead knife-wielding man at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

Border police reportedly shot a man with aggressive behaviour who brandished a knife in the public area of the Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris, on Wednesday morning, police and airport sources told AFP.

“This morning officers neutralised a threatening individual in possession of a knife at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport,” the Paris police department said on its Twitter account.

A source close to the investigation told BFMTV that the man – who was likely homeless – went towards the officers, despite being asked several times to put the knife down. In response, police shot the man in the abdomen, and the individual later died.

The incident took place in the busy, public area of terminal 2F around 8:20 am, when “a homeless man started bothering security agents and border police were called in to remove him”.

Initially the man left while yelling curses but he soon returned and brought out a knife, when one of the officers fired his weapon.

An AFP photographer who witnessed the scene said “a large person of colour brandished something that looked like a knife at the police”.

“He was ordered to stop but kept advancing toward them, and an officer fired a single shot.”

The man was quickly put on a stretcher and evacuated, the photographer said. 

Security forces have been on high alert for terrorist attacks since a wave of jihadist killings that have killed more than 250 people since 2015, often by so-called “lone wolves” who often target police.