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French prosecutors drop murder charges against Jewish kindergarten teacher Sarah Halimi's killer

Psychiatric experts say Kobili Traoré had smoked cannabis and may have been unaware of his actions

    Sarah Halimi was killed in April 2017
    Sarah Halimi was killed in April 2017

    A French prosecutor has dropped charges against the killer of Jewish kindergarten teacher Sarah Halimi after experts ruled he had suffered a massive psychotic episode by smoking cannabis.

    Ms Halimi, who was Orthodox, was killed after Kobili Traoré broke into her council flat in eastern Paris on April 4 2017.

    Witnesses said the 65-year-old was beaten and called a “demon” by her attacker, who recited Koranic verses as he threw her off her balcony.

    In an appeals court hearing on Wednesday Traoré admitted killing Ms Halimi, saying he was not aware of his actions on the night of the murder and did not recognise when he broke in.

    “I felt persecuted. When I saw the Torah and a chandelier in her home I felt oppressed. I saw her face transforming,” he said.

    But in a rare turn of events, French prosecutors were divided on how to proceed.

    Local prosecutors in Paris initially argued that Kobili Traoré should be put on trial for his actions. But they were opposed by the more senior procureur général, which argued Traoré should be hospitalised.

    The different opinions come after separate panels of psychiatrists concluded Mr Traoré had suffered a psychotic episode after a massive use of cannabis, but disagreed over whether he was partially aware of his actions.

    During an earlier hearing, Halimi family lawyer Gilles-William Goldnadel asked Traoré: “Do you think you should be tried? And get a sentence for what you have done?”

    Traoré answered “yes”, but his lawyer Thomas Bidnic responded: “Since when does the accused decide if he should be tried?”

    Witnesses told Wednesday’s hearing that shortly before Ms Halimi was thrown from the balcony Traoré shouted “a woman is trying to kill herself”.

    Her family’s lawyers said it proved Traoré was already planning his defence.

    Mr Bidnic said there were “no good solutions in the case”, adding: “This is Sarah Halimi’s tragedy, her family’s tragedy and this boy’s tragedy, although I’m not comparing the two. Sending him to hospital is not ideal nor sending him to prison.”

    He said Traoré, who remains in a psychiatric hospital but is receiving limited amounts of medication, is “still a threat”.

    Francis Szpiner, another Halimi family lawyer, said the case was setting a historic precedent: “You’re saying that people can walk free after carrying out criminal action just because they were allegedly not aware of the effects of drugs or other substances?

    “Will this also apply to drunk drivers who kill children on the road?”

    The court will rule on December 19 on whether Traoré should face trial.

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