France to revise ‘cannabis loophole’ after Sarah Halimi’s killer escapes trial
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France to revise ‘cannabis loophole’ after Sarah Halimi’s killer escapes trial

Justice minister's announcement came as thousands of people met at simultaneous rallies around the world

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

France’s Justice Minister has vowed to close a so-called “cannabis loophole” that meant authorities ruled the killer of a Jewish doctor is unfit to stand trial.

The country’s highest court had drawn widespread anger earlier this month after it ruled Kobili Traore was not criminally responsible for the death of Sarah Halimi, 65, because he had succumbed to a “delirious fit” after smoking the drug.

On Sunday Eric Dupond-Moretti, France’s justice minister, said the government would present a bill to “fill the legal vacuum” by the end of May.

His announcement came as thousands of people gathered around the world to demonstrate against the loophole.

Near-simultaneous rallies were held in cities including Paris, London, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv, many of them outside French diplomatic missions.

Halimi died four years ago after Traore attacked her in her Paris flat while shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

He then pushed her out of the window onto the street below.

Thousands took to the streets in Paris to demand justice. (Photo: Reuters)

Her brother said on Sunday that the court verdict had been “a clap of thunder, a hammer blow”.

“It was terrible,” William Attal told several thousand people gathered near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, many of them carrying placards reading “Justice for Sarah” and “Jewish Lives Matter”.

One demonstrator, 26-year-old Nathan, told reporters: “A woman was thrown out of a window — maybe, probably, according to experts, because she was Jewish — and the person (who did it) is deemed not criminally responsible, because they smoked cannabis.

“When other criminal deeds take place and substances like alcohol and cannabis are involved, it often aggravates the sanction, it does not protect the culprit.”

Dame Maureen Lipman, who was among the speakers at the London rally, said “a Gallic knee is on the necks of French Jews and French Jews cannot breathe.”

On April 14, France’s Court of Cassation — sometimes referred to as the Supreme Court of Appeals — rulings by lower courts that Halimi’s killer could not stand trial because he had been too intoxicated to be responsible for the murder.

It rejected arguments by lawyers representing Halimi’s family that Traore had previously demonstrated antisemitic attitudes.

French president Emmanuel Macron was among those calling for a change in the law, leading to the announcement by his justice minister at the weekend.

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