Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron said that anti-Semitism was the reason for the deadly stabbing in 2003 of a young Jew whose killer was found unfit to stand trial.

Macron said this in a letter dated May 20 to Meyer Habib, a French-Jewish lawmaker who last month wrote the president to request belated recognition for Sébastien Selam, a 23-year-old DJ who was killed by his Muslim neighbor, as a victim of anti-Semitic violence.

“Recalled because of the heinous killing of Mirelle Knoll, the memory of this young Frenchman who fell a victim to the darkest of fanaticism lives on,” Macron wrote. Knoll, a Holocaust survivor, was stabbed to death in her Paris apartment on March 23. Prosecutors said a neighbor and an accomplice killed her, partly because she was Jewish.

The memory of Selam, Macron wrote, is part of “our national community, which is profoundly affected by anti-Semitic crimes like the one perpetrated against Sébastien Selam,” Macron wrote. It was the first time that a French official recognized the slaying as anti-Semitic. However, this recognition is symbolic and will not be reflected in the judiciary’s records on the case.

A French court in 2010 ruled that Selam’s killer, Adel Amastaibou, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was unable to control his actions. He was released from a psychiatric institution earlier this year, in what Habib described in his letter to Macron as an “affront” to Selam’s relatives. Meyer wrote this on Facebook on Sunday.

Witnesses said they heard Selam scream immediately after killing Selam in northern Paris: “I killed a Je, I’m going to heaven.” He later told police investigators about the killing of Selam: “Allah willed it.”

Amastaibou was a petty criminal who became a radical Muslim.

The labelling of some violent crimes against Jews as owing to psychiatric problems has provoked widespread anger among members of that minority in France, prompting some critics to call this a cover-up by authorities or the judiciary.

Last year, BNVCA protested the initial hospitalization at a psychiatric institution of Kobili Traore, the defendant in a trial for the alleged murder of his Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi, on April 4, 2017. Traore shouted Allah hu akbar and called Halimi a “demon.” Her daughter said he had called the daughter a “dirty Jew” two years before murdering her mother. Traore was ultimately deemed fit top stand trial and put in jail.

Raphaël Enthoven, a well-known philosopher of Jewish descent, complained ironically in September that in France, “all the anti-Semites are crazy” during an with the Europe 1 radio station.

In 2015, a man who stabbed a Jewish man and assaulted a rabbi and his son in Marseille was deemed unfit to stand trial, until he underwent a second psychiatric examination amid protests by local Jews. The man, who had no history of mental illness, was to four years in prison.