(JTA) – The umbrella group of French Jewish communities escalated its criticism of authorities’ handling of the slaying of a Jewish woman by her Muslim neighbour, calling it a cover-up.
CRIF made the accusation in a short and poignant statement Wednesday containing four loaded questions concerning the April 4 killing of Sarah Halimi in Paris.
“The murder of Sarah Halimi was 85 days ago already and the investigation is not advancing. Why this silence? Why this omerta?” read the statement, which contained the Italian-language mafia term for a cover-up among accomplices. “What is being hidden? Why this denial of anti-Semitism?”
Prior to this week, CRIF had refrained from openly faulting the handling of the Halimi investigation, saying it was awaiting the conclusion of the police probe. In the past, it has criticized the proliferation of conspiracy theories by some Jewish groups and activists.
But that changed Monday, when CRIF President Francis Kalifat wrote in an op-ed published by Le Figaro that “there is evidence that this is a textbook case of an anti-Semitic murder but it is being covered up by an ‘omerta’ and this heinous crime has not been recognized for what it is.”
Halimi, he added, “was butchered for the sole and only reason that she was Jewish.”
Kalifat vowed to “never relent” and continue to pressure authorities “until the truth comes to light about this sordid murder.”
Halimi, a physician and kindergarten teacher in her 60s, was beaten savagely by Kobili Traore, 27, and then thrown to her death from a window of her third-story apartment.
Traore, whom neighbors testified shouted during the attack “Allah hu akbar,” Arabic for “Allah is the greatest,” was placed at a psychiatric institution as per his temporary insanity defense though he has no history of mental illness. Halimi’s daughter testified that he had called the daughter a “dirty Jew” two years ago.
A draft indictment drawn up against Traore by the public prosecutor’s office of Paris contained no mention of a hate crime, alleging only voluntary manslaughter with no aggravating circumstances. Sammy Ghozlan, a former police commissioner and head of the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, told JTA that the police are not answering his group’s request for information on Traore’s whereabouts.
Many French Jews, including Ghozlan, said they feared justice and police officials, as well as the mainstream media, were trying to avoid drawing attention to the incident because of France’s presidential and parliamentary elections, which began on April 23 and ended on June 18. In those elections, the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron won decidedly against Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front far-right party, which critics say is anti-Muslim.
Magali Lafourcade, president of the French government’s National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, said in a radio interview earlier this month that she welcomes the debate over whether authorities downplay anti-Semitism and hate crimes. However, she said “we need to let the judiciary do its job” and detectives need time to review all aspects of the case.