Jewish groups in France welcomed the announcement that the brutal murder of Sarah Halimi, Hy”d, will be prosecuted as an anti-Semitic crime.
Mrs. Halimi, 66, had worked for many years as a teacher of young children in a local Jewish school. At around 4 a.m. on April 4, Kada Traore, a 27-year-old immigrant from Mali who lived in her building, forced his way into her apartment and brutally murdered her. During the attack, neighbors heard him reciting verses from the Koran and shouting anti-Semitic slurs.
Yet, in the immediate aftermath, the story gained nearly no attention in the media, and the justice system refused to say that Mrs. Halimi was targeted for being Jewish. Additionally, there was doubt whether the case would even reach the courts, as Traore’s lawyers have steadily claimed that he is not psychologically fit for trial.
Over the past month, several voices from within the Jewish community and beyond have questioned the way the crime has been handled, both officially and in the public eye, especially as evidence was gradually released that seemed to point clearly to anti-Semitism as a motive.
Two weeks ago, a psychological evaluation of Traore was released. It said that the suspect’s being under the influence of illegal substances at the time was a contributing factor to the crime, but that the act was also clearly anti-Semitic. Now a government prosecutor has said that the findings have been accepted and that the case will be tried as a hate crime.
Robert Ejnes, executive director for CRIF, France’s umbrella organization for Jewish institutions, said that his organization was satisfied with the announcement, but hoped the trial would address broader issues of anti-Semitic violence in the country.
“We want this to be a trial not only of one criminal, but an opportunity to put the topic of anti-Semitism that kills on trial in France,” he told Hamodia.
Just two weeks ago, a Jewish family in Paris was robbed and assaulted as their attackers cried, “You Jews have money!”
Many have said that Mrs. Halimi’s murder harkened back to the 2006 murder of Ilan Halimi, Hy”d, an Iranian Jew who bears no relation to Sarah Halimi. Then too, following Ilan Halimi’s kidnapping and murder by a gang of Muslim immigrants, authorities avoided admitting that anti-Semitism was a factor in the case.
A popular theory as to why the crime was seemingly hushed up was that its occurrence two weeks before the national election led to fears that an Islamist murder would draw support to then-presidential candidate Marie Le Pen and her nationalist party.
Along with the many statements from Jewish groups calling for the anti-Semitic element of the murder to be dealt with by the government, several leading politicians and intellectuals had penned articles on the topic as well.
Mr. Ejnes said that he believed the pressure was a significant factor in the justice department’s reversal.
“From day one, we felt we were pressuring them to admit what we felt was very obvious, but I do think that the pressure had a lot to do with it,” he said. “We knew they could not change their position so easily, but the psychiatric evaluation gave them a way to do so.”