Thousands protest in France as Jewish kindergarten director Sarah Halimi’s killer faces release

A court ruled last month that Kobili Traoré, who smoked large amounts of cannabis before attacking Halimi, was not responsible for his actions


Thousands of people gathered in French cities including Paris, Marseille and Montpellier to demand justice for Sarah Halimi, the Jewish teacher whose killer was deemed not responsible for his actions.

Kobili Traoré had smoked large amounts of cannabis before breaking into the 64-year-old retired kindergarten director’s apartment in April 2017, where he beat her and threw her out of her balcony while shouting “Allahu Akbar” and Koranic verses.

After psychiatric experts said he suffered a psychosis on the day of the attack, prosecutors dropped murder charges against him and an appeals court ruled last month that Traoré should be hospitalised.

But because experts now believe he is not mentally ill, Traoré could be released within weeks.

The crowd in Paris’s Republique Square on Sunday shouted “Justice for Sarah Halimi” as her brother William Attal stood on a stage and vowed to fight on to bring the case back to court.

“It’s so terrifying to know that such a dangerous man will soon be free again,” said Mr Attal, who believes the killer had planned the murder and only pretended to be ill.

Mr Attal’s lawyer Muriel Ouaknine-Melki, who was also at the event, said last month’s court was flawed: “They say you can’t question court rulings but we have to react to this ruling because it’s so deeply wrong.

“The prosecution was divided and the anti-Semitic motive was brought forward, then disappeared before reappearing and disappearing again.”

Also speaking at the event was the author Marek Halter, who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto with his parents during the Second World War.

Both Mr Attal and Ms Melki believe the police investigation into the Sarah Halimi killing was mismanaged.  

“Why have police failed to protect Sarah Halimi?” Ms Melki asked the crowd.

“They were on the site when she was still alive. They could have saved her. And now the prosecutor has rejected our request for an investigation on the events of that night.”

She continued: “Who wants this type of justice?”

“No one!” shouted the crowd.

Mr Halter said he was disappointed by the low turnout.

“It’s sad to see only hundreds of people, and all of them Jewish, came to protest.”

“Not everyone is Jewish! There are Christians here too!” interjected Alix, a one 30-year-old Alix carrying a French flag.

“During the Second World War so many Christian Righteous Among the Nations saved Jews in France,” Mr Halter continued. “Oh, how I wish they were still with us today.

“Where are the imams? Where are the priests?

“This court ruling will encourage other murderers and we can’t just let this slide. We have to fight it, otherwise we will die!”

After the rally in the square, the protesters walked towards Sarah Halimi’s old apartment building, where they recited kaddish and held a minute of silence. Some shouted that Halimi’s neighbours should have acted out to prevent the tragedy.

“There is something deeply flawed in the way our justice system works,” Alix said. “When they ruled this crime will go unpunished, the judges opened the door to more criminality. It’s dangerous for everyone.”

“I have a feeling of deep injustice, I’m angry and I’m fed up with this!” added Genevieve, another protester. “As time goes by, there are fewer and fewer Jews and those of us who are still here are more likely to be targeted.”

“My grandfather was part of the resistance during the war and he told us before dying: watch out for yourselves, things are turning sour again.”

Genevieve shared her experiences with two other participants, Sandra and Lynn.

“I stopped wearing my Star of David necklace in the early 2000s, when antisemitism exploded again,” she told them.

“Me too and I’ve banned my children from wearing them,” said Sandra. “And I have moved my mezuzah inside my house so passersby won’t see it.”

“But you know, people don’t need to see the mezuzah to know we’re Jewish. They can tell we’re Jewish and they hear our names,” said Lynn.

“Since Sarah Halimi was killed, I make sure my windows are shut, in case a murderer like Traoré tries to break in.” said Genevieve.

“My 18-year-old nephew was wearing a kippah on the street the other day and three other 18-year-olds tried to attack him. They ran after him all the way to his home. But he’s a big fellow and defended himself.”

“That’s one of the things I hate the most about the current situation,” she added. “You can’t trust people anymore. I’m always suspicious and whenever something occurs I always assume the worst is going to happen.”

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