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French judge rules antisemitism was a factor in Sarah Halimi murder

A court had initially refused to classify the attack as religiously motivated

    Sarah Halimi
    Sarah Halimi

    The murder of a 65-year-old Jewish woman in Paris last year was an antisemitic attack, a judge has ruled, overturning an earlier refusal by French authorities to treat it as a hate crime.

    Kobili Traore, 28, is accused of murdering his Orthodox Jewish neighbour Lucette Attal-Halimi, known by her Hebrew name Sarah Halimi.

    It is alleged he broke into her council flat in eastern Paris on the night of April 3 2017.

    Authorities initially refused to classify the attack which led to her death as religiously motivated, provoking outrage from Jewish groups and a legal challenge from the victim’s family.

    It has been alleged that authorities were reluctant to inflame tensions which could have aided the campaign of then-presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who ran on an anti-immigrant platform.

    After Mr Traore’s arrest, he told investigators he had consumed large amounts of cannabis and had been possessed by “external” or “devilish” forces.

    Psychiatrists said he had still been responsible for his actions, which were “not incompatible with an antisemitic dimension”. The charge has now been amended to “murder with antisemitism as an aggravating factor”. 

    Ms Halimi’s death sparked debate over antisemitism in working-class neighbourhoods, where Jews and Arab communities frequently live in close proximity.

    During a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in July, President Emmanuel Macron called for the “full facts of the case” to be made public.

    Amid a rise in antisemitism in recent years, thousands of Jews have emigrated from France, which is home to the world’s third-largest Jewish community.

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