(JTA) – A judge in Paris scrapped hate crime charges from the indictment of a murder suspect who confessed to killing his Jewish neighbour.
The move came amid a rise in reported violent anti-Semitic attacks in France.
The Paris Prosecutor’s office said it would appeal the dismissal Monday of the aggravated element of a hate crime in the trial of Kobili Traoré, a 28-year-old Muslim man who on April 4 threw his neighbour, Sarah Halimi, to her death from the window of her third-storey apartment.
The charge of murder aggravated by racial hatred was excluded from what is now the indictment against Traoré by the examining magistrate – a function designed to oversee prosecutors and intercept flawed indictments before they form the basis of an active trial.
Francis Kalifat, president of the Jewish umbrella group CRIF, told Le Parisien daily that the examining magistrate’s move was “an insult” to Halimi’s memory.
Separately, the Interior Ministry of France on Wednesday reported a 7.2 per cent decrease in 2017 in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in the country over 2016. The ministry recorded 311 cases. But of those, 97 were classified as violent assaults – a 25 per cent increase over 2016, Le Figaro reported.
The SPCJ watchdog unit of French Jewry, which receives and collects reports independently to the Interior Ministry, has not yet published its report for 2017.
In the Halimi case, Traoré was heard shouting about Allah and calling her “a devil” in Arabic. Halimi’s daughter said he had called the daughter a “dirty Jewess” in the building two years before the murder. But the examining magistrate in Traoré’s trial, which opened this week, dismissed the aggravated hate crime charge before the trial actually began, Le Parisien reported Wednesday. Traoré is pleading temporary insanity, though he has no history of mental illness.
For months after the slaying of the 66-year-old Jewish physician, leaders of French Jewry urged authorities to include the aggravated element of a hate crime in the draft indictment against Traoré. They finally agreed in September.
The incident occurred months before France’s general election, in which the French political establishment was bracing for unprecedented gains for the far-right National Front party.
Marine Le Pen, the anti-immigration party’s leader, 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 and the media covered up or ignored the alleged anti-Semitic elements connected to Halimi’s suspected murder to prevent it from becoming fodder for Le Pen’s divisive campaign.