'Investigate police inaction during Sarah Halimi's murder'

Former French police commissioner: 'Police conduct suggests they had suspected a terrorist attack in progress,' but failed to act.



A former police commissioner in France called for a probe of three officers for failing to save a Jewish woman who was killed by a Muslim man in her home while they were waiting for backup outside her Paris apartment.

Sammy Ghozlan, a retired commissioner and head of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism watchdog group, told officials and members of the family of the victim of the April 4 attack, Sarah Halimi, that an internal review was necessary during a visit to Marseille Thursday.

Several leaders of French Jewry criticized authorities’ handling of the investigation into the murder of Sarah Halimi by her neighbor, whom neighbors said had called her “Satan” and shouted “Allah hu akbar” – Arabic for “Allah is the greatest” – before the killing. He is suspected of having broken into the home of Halimi, a 65-year-old physician, beating her and throwing her to her death from a window of her third-story apartment.

The suspect, 27-year-old Kobili Traore, was placed under psychiatric evaluation as per his temporary insanity claim though he has no history of mental illness. He spent the first two weeks of his arrest at a psychiatric detention facility but authorities have not divulged information on his whereabouts thereafter despite repeated queries, Ghozlan told JTA.

A draft indictment against him published by the Paris Prosecutor’s office did not contain a mention of a hate crime in the voluntary manslaughter charge, prompting the CRIF umbrella group of French Jews to criticize the judiciary and what CRIF said was indifference by the media.

During the attack, three armed police officers arrived at the apartment before Halimi’s defenestration but they decided against breaking into the apartment while waiting for backup, an investigation by BNVCA revealed, Ghozlan said.

“The police officers’ conduct suggests they had suspected a terrorist attack in progress, rather than a neighborly dispute,” Ghozlan said. “If this is the case, and there is reason to believe the attack was terrorist in nature, than this case is not being treated accordingly. It is very unusual,” he added.

Ghozlan also said he feared that the officers may have refrained from taking action for fear of triggering violence or other forms of unrest through an altercation with a Muslim suspect, a scenario which in 2006 prompted riots across France, featuring the burning of cars and buildings.

“It doesn’t help that France is having elections,” he said in reference to the presidential votes, which took place in April and May, and the parliamentary votes this month.

Emmanuel Macron won the May 7 vote but Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front clinched a third of the electorate with her anti-Muslim platform.

Ghozlan said he does not hold Macron’s government responsible for failures in the handling of the Halimi affair.

“The judiciary is independent in France so this problem is not on them,” he said of the government.