French Lawmakers to Launch Inquiry Into Murder of Jewish Woman

Schoolteacher and physician Sarah Halimi was severely beaten and thrown from a window by her neighbor Kobili Traore in 2017

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Protesters march with a banner of Sarah Halimi during a demonstration in Marseille, France in April.
Protesters march with a banner of Sarah Halimi during a demonstration in Marseille, France in April.Credit: Daniel Cole / AP
Sam Sokol

French lawmakers announced that they will launch a parliamentary probe into the circumstances surrounding the death of retired schoolteacher and physician Sarah Halimi, who was severely beaten and thrown from a window by her neighbor Kobili Traore in 2017.

Traore, who is Muslim, called Halimi, 65, a “demon” as he pummeled her for more than 30 minutes and shouted about Allah before defenestrating her, witnesses said.

The effort to establish the parliamentary commission was led by Jewish MP Meyer Habib —whose 8th District constituency includes French expatriates in Israel and around the Mediterranean— and supported by 80 members of the National Assembly.

The push to set up the commission came in response to last month’s court ruling that Traore was unfit to stand trial because he suffered from a drug-induced psychotic episode, despite the fact that a lower court had established that Traore had targeted Halimi because she was Jewish.

The court’s decision was greeted with anger from French Jews, sparking protests and the resignation of a Jewish judge. During a rally at Paris’ Place du Trocadéro, protesters carried signs reader “In France, the life of a Jewish woman is worth less than a dog’s,” in reference to another 2017 case involving a man who threw a dog out a window and failed to convince judges that he was completely under the influence of drugs.

In response, President Emmanuel Macron called for a change in his country’s laws, telling the Le Figaro newspaper that “deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ should, not in my view, remove your criminal responsibility.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin endorsed Macron’s call for change, telling the French leader in a letter that his “quick and clear response” sent “a clear message to the family of the victim and to France as a whole that law as it currently stands is deficient, and that deficiency has allowed a despicable murderer to evade justice and punishment.”

While Habib welcomed Macron’s push to amend the law, he also said that the move was insufficient, telling Israeli television network i24NEWS’s French service that more had to be done.

“I heard the answer from the president, but it’s not enough. It’s good to change the law, and it’s going to be changed, I have no doubts about that,” he said, calling for clarification of the various “dysfunctions” which took during the Sarah Halimi affair.

“We are going to find the truth without any prejudgment,” he declared, stating that the investigation would listen to “the witnesses, the neighbors, the judges, the police, all the actors of this terrible affair” and return its conclusions, which he hoped could lead to a criminal trial, within six months.

“A person who threatened to kill me was punished by five years of jail, but the killer of Sarah Halimi is going to get nothing. It’s impossible. It’s incredible,” he said, referencing the recent conviction of blogger Ahmed Moualek, who had called for the murder of prominent French Jews.

The announcement of the commission was welcomed by the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, the country’s main Jewish umbrella group.

“We’re very happy that Meyer Habib managed to succeed in setting up this parliamentary commission, which will inquire into Sarah Halimi’s case,” CRIF Executive Director Robert Ejnes told Haaretz.

“We know that the court has decided that there will not be a trial of the murderer for psychological reasons. This will be the opportunity for the representatives to inquire into each and every item in the murder of Sarah Halimi (such as) the role of the police [and] the way the justice system handled the case, and we are looking very positively at this commission.”

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