Thousands of protesters joined a demonstration in central Paris on Sunday to protest the recent decision by the French Court of Cassation to absolve the 2017 murderer of Sarah Halimi of criminal responsibility because he took cannabis before he killed her.
The main demonstration was held at Paris’s Place Du Trocadero, while hundreds of protesters demonstrated at the same time in Tel Aviv, London, Rome, New York, Miami, Los Angeles and other cities in France.
Numerous prominent French public figures were present at the Paris rally, including the actor Pascal Légitimu, Israeli-French actor Yvan Attal and French-Jewish comedian Gad Elmaleh.
Also present was Halimi’s brother, William Attal, and her son Yonathan.
Hundreds of demonstrators attended the protest in Tel Aviv outside the French Embassy and another gathering at Jerusalem’s Independence Park. They held up placards reading, “Jewish lives matter,” “Justice for Sarah Halimi,” “Shame on France” and other slogans.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich (Blue and White) attended the Tel Aviv rally and warned of the danger of allowing Halimi’s killer to walk free under such circumstances.
“From Tel Aviv to Paris, the Jewish people in Israel and around the world stand united in solidarity with the Halimi family and the French Jewish community,” she said.
“Sarah Halimi was murdered only because she was a Jew… Especially today, with the alarming rise in radical Islamic antisemitism throughout France, this court ruling sets a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes the security and well-being of our brothers and sisters in France,” Yankelevich said, adding that Israel would do “all in its power to ensure the safety of all Jews” around the world.
In April 2017, Kobili Traoré, a 27-year-old Muslim man, violently beat Halimi, his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor, while screaming “Allahu akhbar” and then threw her out of her third-floor window.
In December 2019, a lower court ruled that Traoré was not criminally responsible for his actions because his intoxication with cannabis before the attack compromised his “discernment,” or consciousness.
The Court of Cassation upheld the decision two weeks ago, ruling that the law, as it stands, does not distinguish between mental impairment due to disease and the voluntary intake of narcotics.
On Sunday, French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti said the government would present legislation by the end of May to close the legal loophole that allowed Traoré to escape prosecution.
The new legislation will “take into account the voluntary intake of toxic substances by an individual that leads to the impairment of his judgment,” he said.
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a change to the law to stop future cases in which murderers use the excuse of intoxication to escape justice.
French Jewish organizations said they would lobby for such a law.
Ariel Kandel, director of the Qualita organization, which assists French immigrants to Israel, denounced the French court’s ruling and said it was “an additional reminder that antisemitism still rages in Europe.”
“The murderer was completely responsible for his actions,” he said. “It is unthinkable that he will go free.”
In France, someone who uses cannabis and then causes a fatal car accident would be held responsible for his actions, Kandel said, adding that the decision concerning Traoré meant someone could commit murder in the same circumstances and evade justice.
“The decision of the French high court spits in the face of the Jewish community of France and does injury to Jews around the world,” he said.