Macron under fire for criticism of case of murdered Jewish woman

Judges in France rebuke Macron for criticizing court ruling on 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi.

Ben Ariel ,

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron drew a sharp rebuke from the country's top magistrates on Monday for criticizing a court ruling on the 2017 murder of a Jewish woman in Paris, AFP reported.

Sarah Halimi, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties, died after being pushed out of the window of her Paris flat by a neighbor who was shouting "Allahu Akbar".

The murderer, Kobili Traore confessed to the killing but a subsequent psychiatric evaluation determined that he was not responsible for his actions.

Last month, the Court of Appeal in Paris concluded that Traore had succumbed to a "delirious fit" and was therefore not criminally responsible for his actions.

During a visit to Israel last week Macron took issue with the finding, saying that "even if, in the end, the judge decided that there was no criminal responsibility, there is a need for a trial."

His remarks drew a swift riposte from the prosecutor-general and the top judge at France's top appeals court, which will hear an appeal by Halimi's family against the lower court's insanity finding.

In a statement, judge Chantal Arens of the Cour de Cassation and prosecutor Francois Molins noted that "the independence of the justice system, of which the president of the Republic is the guarantor, is an essential factor in the functioning of democracy."

The judges of the Cour de Cassation, "must be able to examine all the appeals (in the Halimi case) in all serenity and independence", the two top magistrates said.

The head of France's main judges' union, Katia Dubreuil, said she too was "shocked" by Macron's remarks, noting that despite his promise not to interfere in court rulings, "that's exactly what he's doing!"

Macron had begun his speech in Jerusalem by saying that he could not comment on the court ruling because it was his role, as president, to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

Despite this, he went on to comment on the case regardless. Noting that a French judge had in 2018 confirmed that Halimi's murder was anti-Semitic in nature, Macron declared, "There is a need for the healing that a trial can bring."

France has seen a sharp increase in anti-Semitism in recent years. The number of anti-Jewish offences reported to police in France surged 74 percent in 2018.

On Sunday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that anti-Semitic acts increased in France by 27% in 2019.

Halimi’s murder was followed by several other incidents of anti-Semitic violence. In March of 2018, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was murdered and set on fire in her apartment in Paris. Knoll’s Muslim neighbor, Yacine Mihoub, and an accomplice, confessed to stabbing Knoll to death. Authorities described the murder as an anti-Semitic hate-crime.

In May of last year, a French-Jewish taxi driver was mugged and beaten in what he said was an anti-Semitic crime by perpetrators who targeted him because of his Jewish-sounding name.