The UK Jewish community joined global protests in solidarity with French Jews on Sunday following a Court of Cassation’s (Supreme Court) ruling last week that the killer of Sarah Halimi could not stand trial due to being in a “delirious state” at the time of the crime in April 2017.
Kobili Traore, a heavy user of cannabis, has been in a psychiatric hospital since Halimi’s death.
People are not criminally responsible if fully losing their judgment under French law.
“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.
Some 100 protesters attended a rally outside the French Embassy in central London.
The size of the crowd, limited by COVID-19 restrictions, displayed placards bearing the words ‘J’accuse! Solidarity with French Jews’ and ‘Je Suis Sarah Halimi’.
In France, thousands packed the Trocadero Plaza in front of the Eiffel Tower, demonstrations also took place in Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux. Rallies occurred in Israel and the United States. A further 10,000 outraged supporters demanded justice for Halimi on social media platforms.
Dame Maureen Lipman, Campaign Against Antisemitism Chief Executive Gideon Falter, Hexagon Society founder Sophie Weisenfeld, YouTuber Raphael Landau and Muslims Against Antisemitism activist Liz Arif-Fear addressed crowds in Knightsbridge.
The rally criticised the court’s ruling in the murder case and general treatment of French Jews.
France’s highest court has been lambasted for backing Halimi’s killer, Traore, who claimed not to be responsible for his actions as he felt “possessed” due to being high on cannabis.
President Emmanuel Macron has called for reforms in French law.
He reportedly told Le Figaro magazine, “Deciding to take drugs and then ‘becoming mad’ should not in my eyes remove your criminal responsibility.”
Macron added, “I would like to tell the family, relatives of the victim and all fellow citizens of the Jewish faith who were awaiting this trial of my warm support and the determination of the Republic to protect them.”
Macron also called on the Minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti to submit a change to the law.
Dupond-Moretti is set to present legislation next month.
Traore subjected the retired schoolteacher, 65, to years of antisemitic abuse. He brutally beat Halimi in her Paris apartment and threw her over a third floor balcony to her death shouting “Allahu akhbar”. Police were at the front door of the apartments awaiting reinforcements.
Dame Maureen told demonstrators that “a Gallic knee” was on the necks of French Jews who cannot breathe. She added, “The French Government are more fearful of Jihadist retribution than they are of justice for their Jewish community. They are paralysed by fear of race hate.”
Falter said, “It’s shameful that today in the European Union, in Europe, in the world, we have a leading country, like France, where Jews are in fear.” He added, “During the Holocaust, French authorities were too often complicit in the genocide of French Jews. After the war, the nation vowed to defend what remained of its Jewish population. The decision of France’s highest court that torturing and throwing an elderly Jewish woman out of a window cannot be ascribed to antisemitic motivations if the attacker is high, is a betrayal of that pledge. For decades, French Jews have suffered antisemitic abuse, violence and terrorism.”
Antisemitism in France has seen incidents rise 121% since 2017, Jews, who comprise 1% of France’s population, bear the brunt of 41% of hate crimes.
“It is intolerable that a leading European nation is so abjectly failing to stop the persecution of its Jewish population,” concluded Falter.
Arif-Fear called for justice for Halimi’s family.
“The murderer must face justice, I, and my colleagues at MAAS, will always stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters.,” she said. “We believe that we’re stronger together, and we want Jews across Britain, France, wider Europe, and the world to know that you do have allies.”
Lawyers for the sister of Halimi are bringing a lawsuit under Israeli law to convict Traore.
Robert Ejnes of French Jewish umbrella group CRIF attended the Paris rally.
“The killer is recognised as a killer, is recognised as being antisemitic but he won’t be tried. It’s simply unacceptable and it’s very hard for these people to even grieve,” he reportedly said.
French authorities refused to admit the antisemitic crime for months.
CAA on hearing the ruling noted that in France a person can be sentenced to a year in prison for throwing a dog from a window, but you can walk free from court if you kill a Jew whilst on drugs.
“France has gradually betrayed its Jews by allowing antisemitism to run rampant, putting French Jews in fear,” said a CAA spokesman.
Thousands of French Jews and supporters protested in Paris last year after the French Court of Appeal ruled Traore was “not criminally responsible”. Traore conceded that seeing a Jewish menorah and prayer book in Hamili’s flat intensified his mental state.
Francis Kalifat, President of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, reportedly said, “From now on in our country, we can torture and kill Jews with complete impunity.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre was also distressed by the Supreme Court.
Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations, stated, “After a harrowing three years of courtroom debate on the criminal responsibility of a murderer, presumably ‘under the influence’ of cannabis, which basically resulted in him being interned in a psychiatric hospital instead of being judged and condemned to prison, the family has been on edge until now. This is a devastating blow.”
Samuels added, The Supreme Court’s decision now closes the case definitively and instead of allowing it to be re-examined by the Appeals Court on the basis of a more solid legal standpoint, it confirms that it is possible to deny justice for a murder aggravated by its antisemitic character. Furthermore, this decision denies closure for the family and potentially creates a precedent for all hate criminals to simply claim insanity or decide to smoke, snort or inject drugs or even get drunk before committing their crimes.”
Samuels noted the memory of Halimi and other victims of antisemitic hatred would live on.