(JTA) – A European Parliament member and 17 prominent French intellectuals protested the omission of anti-Semitism from a draft indictment of a Muslim for the murder of his Jewish neighbour.
During a speech in parliament, Frédérique Ries, a lawmaker from Belgium, on Thursday criticized French authorities’ handling of the investigation into the April 4 incident, in which 66-year-old Sarah Halimi was tortured and thrown out of her third-story apartment to her death, allegedly by 27-year-old Kobili Traore, who lived in her building.
“French authorities have treated her murder with icy silence,” Ries, who is Jewish, said in reference to the fact that Traore, who had no history of mental illness, was placed at a psychiatric institution and has not been charged with a hate crime, despite evidence suggesting he killed Halimi because she was Jewish.
“No national mobilization for Sarah, she died as the media remained quasi-indifferent,” she said.
Last week, 17 French intellectuals, including the historian Georges Bensoussan and the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, published a scathing criticism of the handling of the incident by French authorities and the media.
The omission of hate crime charges from a draft indictment being prepared by the Paris Prosector’s Office for voluntary manslaughter against Traore has angered many French Jews, who cited a recording of the incident made by another neighbor. In it, according to the Tribune Juive weekly, Traore is heard shouting “Allah hu akbar (Allah is the greatest).” He is heard calling Sarah “Satan” and then praying after her killing.
“Everything about this crime suggests there is an ongoing denial of reality” by authorities, the intellectuals wrote, also citing testimonies of neighbors who said Traore had called Halimi a “dirty Jew” to her face.
“We demand all the truth be brought to light in the murder of Sarah Halimi,” the intellectuals wrote.
The incident occurred month before France’s general election, in which the French political establishment was bracing for unprecedented gains for the far-right National Front party, which opposes immigration to France from Muslim countries and seeks to limit public expressions of that faith. Marine Le Pen, the party’s president, received a historic third of the vote in the final round of the presidential elections, which she lost to the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.
Many French Jews believe authorities covered up Halimi’s alleged murder to prevent it from becoming fodder for Le Pen’s divisive campaign.