French Jewish leader disputes insanity plea of suspected killer


(JTA) — A leader of French Jews demanded the criminal prosecution of psychiatric patient who is suspected of killing a Jewish woman earlier this month.

The demand Thursday by Joel Mergui, president of the Consistoire organization that provides religious services to French Jews, marks the first open dispute between French authorities and leaders of the country’s Jewish community over the death of Sarah Halimi on April 4 in Paris.

Citing the ongoing investigation into the incident, the Consistoire and CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, have resisted pressures by community members and watchdog group to criticize the police’s handling of the killing as an act of insanity. A march co-organized by CRIF in memory of Halimi, a woman in her 60s, featured disruptions as some participants confronted residents of her heavily-Muslim 11 district.

On Thursday, Mergui wrote in a statement that, “It is more than legitimate to look into the anti-Semitic character of this murder, in light of the fact that many people told us that Sarah Halimi of blessed memory, who was the only Jewish resident of  her building, lived in fear of her attacker.”


He added: “I refuse to accept the convenient pretext of madness for a murderer who tried to make the victim look like a suicide case in front of witnesses who were powerless to act.”

The Consistoire will join the victim’s family as a third-party to a motion to try the suspect for murder with aggravated circumstances, Mergui wrote. He also wrote that, according to witnesses, the suspect shouted “Allah hu akbar,” Arabic for Allah is the greatest, before pushing his victim out of the window. The Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism also presented such testimonies.

The suspect was put into a psychiatric evaluation shortly after his arrest on April 4 and has stayed there since then, Mergui wrote.

“I light of my commitment to the memory of Sarah Halimi and to the dignity of her family, I must express the legitimate questions of the entire Jewish community over the hate of a murderer who continued to cry to Allah while butchering his Jewish neighbor,” Mergui wrote in the statement. He also wrote that evidence shows Halimi was “tortured” before she was thrown out of the window.

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