New Evaluation Puts Trial of Sarah Halimi’s Accused Killer in Question

The man who allegedly killed Sarah Halimi, Hy”d, will not stand trial should a French court decide to accept the findings of a new psychiatric test which says that he cannot be held responsible for his actions.

The recommendation, which drew condemnation from the country’s Jewish community, contradicts the findings of an earlier test which determined that the accused killer’s act was motivated by anti-Semitism and that he was indeed fit to stand trial. The judge who is leading the inquiry into the case has already ordered a third evaluation to take place towards the end of the summer, and presumably will determine how to proceed following the results of that test.

Robert Ejnes, executive director for CRIF, France’s umbrella organization for Jewish institutions, told Hamodia that the approach was far from standard.

“We do not know why the judge is going about things this way,” he said. “The first evaluation was very clear and it was conducted by one of the leading experts in the field. What she [the judge] is doing is certainly strange, but she is the one conducting the inquiry and there is nothing that anybody else can do about it. We have respect for the French system of justice and hope that this is just an attempt to make sure that she gets things right.”

Soon after the results of the second evaluation were made public, CRIF released an official statement calling the Judge’s course of action “obstinacy” and “procrastination.”

Mrs. Halimi, 66, had worked for many years as a teacher of young children in a local Jewish school. In April 2017, Kada Traore, a then 27-year-old Muslim immigrant from Mali who lived in her building, forced his way into her Paris apartment in the middle of the night and brutally murdered her. During the attack, neighbors heard him reciting verses from the Koran and shouting anti-Semitic slurs.

The crime initially gained little attention in French media, and the justice system refused to say that Mrs. Halimi was targeted for being Jewish. A popular theory abounded at the time that the story was deliberately hushed out of fear that it would draw additional support for then-presidential candidate Marie le Pen and her nationalist party.

The victim’s family and Jewish advocacy groups in France were joined by several public figures who called for greater light to be shed on the case. Since then, the likelihood of Traore standing trial and the emphasis placed on the anti-Semitic nature of the crime has shifted several times.

Shortly after the public outcry, the prosecutor assigned to the case announced that Mrs. Halimi’s death was to be tried as a “hate crime.” Yet, the judge later dismissed the charge, citing that the suspect had been under the influence of illegal substances at the time of the murder. This past February, the same judge accepted the findings of an expert who determined that Traore, who does not have a known history of mental illness, indeed targeted his victim based on her Jewish identity and could be held accountable for his actions.

The present findings, once again, put a trial in jeopardy.

“We do not know his mental condition, but what we are sure of is that he killed a Jewish woman because she was Jewish and that he was aware of that, which is what the first evaluation said,” said Mr. Ejnes.

This past year has seen an uptick in anti-Semitic crimes in France. Over the winter, several Jewish children and teenagers were assaulted in the streets of Paris and other cities. In March, Mireille Knoll, Hy”d, an 85 year old Holocaust survivor, was murdered in her apartment by two neighbors, under circumstances that government authorities readily admitted were motivated by anti-Semitism.

Mr. Ejnes said that Mrs. Halimi was the twelfth person to be murdered in France over the last 15 years under circumstances that bore close connection to the influence of radical Islamic anti-Semitism on young Muslims living in the country.

“This trial is much more than a trial of one killer; it would be a trial of a system of radical Islam that has taken and continues to threaten Jewish lives. We hope that that trial is allowed to take place,” he said.