Crowds gathered Sunday in Paris and other French cities to denounce a ruling by France’s highest court that the killer of Jewish woman Sarah Halimi was not criminally responsible and therefore could not go on trial.
Thousands of people filled the Trocadero Plaza in Paris, in front of the Eiffel Tower, answering a call by Jewish associations, organizations fighting antisemitism and other groups who say justice has not been done.
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The announcement that the killer would not be sent to trial sparked outrage among the French and international Jewish community.
Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, died in 2017 after being pushed out of the window of her Paris apartment by her neighbor, Kobili Traoré, who allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic).
Traoré admitted pushing her.
The ruling from the Court of Cassation, issued earlier this month, said there was enough evidence to show the act had antisemitic motives.
However, the court said that a person who committed a crime while being in a “delirious state” cannot be sent to trial — even if the state was caused by the habitual use of illegal drugs. Traoré used to smoke heavy quantities of cannabis.
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“According to unanimous opinions of different psychiatry experts, that man was presenting at the time of the facts a severe delirious state,” the court said in a statement.
Under French law, people cannot be held criminally responsible for actions committed while fully losing their judgment or self-control due to a psychiatric disorder.
Traoré has been in a specialized unit of a psychiatric hospital since Halimi’s death.
French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a change in French law, in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.
“Deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ should, not in my view, remove your criminal responsibility,” Macron said. He also expressed his support for the family.
Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti tweeted on Sunday that he will present a bill at the end of May to plug a legal vacuum in French law regarding the consequences of the voluntary use of drugs.
Last January, several thousand people, many of them Jews, rallied in several cities in France to protest a ruling by the Paris Appeals Court, which had reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Traoré was unfit to stand trial because he was too high on marijuana to control his actions at the time of the killing, even though he had confessed to killing his Jewish neighbor while shouting about Allah and despite the fact that he had no history of mental illness.