Sarah Halimi case goes to high court

In France, if you smoke cannabis, you can kill a Jew. That’s basically what France’s lower court decided in December 2019, after excusing the alleged antisemitic murderer of a Jewish woman from a criminal trial because of his heavy intake of cannabis that supposedly compromised his “discernment,” or consciousness.

France’s Court of Cassation (appellate) began its deliberations on whether or not to overrule the lower court’s decision not to try Kobili Traoré for killing Sarah Halimi in 2017 while shouting about Allah, a decision that was appealed last year.

At the time of the ruling, the judge cited psychiatric evaluations saying Traoré’s consumption of marijuana before the incident led to a “delirious episode” that made him not legally responsible for his actions. However, the judge also said that Traoré, who is in his 30s, killed Halimi because he is an antisemite.

On April 2017, Traoré, a 27-year-old man, beat Halimi, his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor, while screaming “Allah Akbar” (God is great) and antisemitic slogans before throwing her out of the window of her third-floor apartment to her death. The court said that he was not responsible for his actions, however, since he smoked an extensive dose of cannabis that “affected” his senses, a decision that sparked outrage among the French and International Jewish community.

According to Algemeiner, if Traoré’s criminal irresponsibility is confirmed by the highest court, he will be held in mental health institutions until doctors deem him fit to be released back into society, and the only penalty he would receive would be to be banned from visiting the site of the killing and having contact with Halimi’s family for 20 years.

However, an unnamed source told broadcaster Europe 1 that France’s advocate-general “will rule in favor of confirming the criminal irresponsibility of the perpetrator of the murder,” Algemeiner reported.

“How can we have a ‘discernment’ that is abolished, but the remainder of a conscience?” asked Muriel Ouaknine Melki, a lawyer representing the Halimi family, adding that French citizens as a whole had an important stake in Traoré facing trial, as they would then be able to establish whether “the consumption of narcotics can be a cause for exonerating from penal responsibility in criminal matters.”

Ouaknine emphasized that French law more commonly mandates further penalties for individuals who commit crimes under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“I want to recall that for several offenses, for example the crime of rape, taking narcotics is an aggravating circumstance,” she said. “In willful violence, it is also an aggravating circumstance.”


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