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‘Rally of anger’ in Paris: Thousands demand justice for Sarah Halimi

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More than 20,000 people attended a rally on Sunday (25 April) in central Paris to protest the recent decision by the Court of Cassationn, France highest court, to absolve the 2017 murderer of Sarah Halimi of criminal responsibility, because he took cannabis before he killed her, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

The demonstration, which was held under tight security on Trocadero Square, in front of the Eiffel Tower, saw French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia demand another “trial of facts”, even if it ends without a sentence.

Demonstrators gathered under the slogan “Without justice no Republic.’’  “No right without justice”, “Justice stoned?” or “Justice for Sarah Halimi” were written on placards held up in the crowd.

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Rallies were also held in several other French cities but also abroad, in Tel Aviv, New York, Miami, Rome, The Hague, Brussels and London.

In April 2017, Kobili Traoré, a 27-year-old Muslim man, violently beat Sarah Halimi, his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor, while screaming “Allah Akbar” and other antisemitic slogans, before throwing her to her death out of the window of her third-floor apartment.

A lower court ruled that Traore was not criminally responsible for his actions because his intoxication with cannabis before the attack compromised his “discernment.”

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Two weeks ago, the  Court of Cassation upheld this decision, ruling that the law, as it stands, does not distinguish between mental impairment due to disease, or the voluntary intake of narcotics. The decision sparked anger in the Jewish community and abroad.

Lawyers of Sarah Halimi’s family have announced that they would bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights and also to Israel’s courts.

French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti tweted Sunday that he will present, following a demand of President Emmanuel Macron, a bill at the end of May to to plug a legal vacuum in French law regarding the consequences of the voluntary use of drugs.

Macron earlier this week called for a change in the law. “Deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ should, not in my view, remove your criminal responsibility,” he said in an interview with daily Le Faigaro.  He also expressed his support for Sarah Halimi’s family.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who was present with many personalities at the demonstration, announced that a street will be named after Sarah Halimi in Paris.

“We all feel like Sarah Halimi’s soul. Her memory must be honoured. This is what we will do, there will be a Sarah Halimi street,” she said.

“There has been an anti-Semitic crime, we must demand justice for Sarah Halimi with a new law.  We must continue to fight against antisemitism. And our Republic must be there to fight this anti-Semitism”, she added.

Hundreds of demonstrators attended the protest in Tel Aviv outside the French embassy and another gathering was at Jerusalem’s Independence Park. They held up placards reading “Jewish lives matter,” “Justice for Sarah Halimi,” “Shame on France,” and other slogans.

Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich warned of the danger of allowing Halimi’s killer to walk free under such circumstances.

“From Tel Aviv to Paris, the Jewish people in Israel and around the world stand united in solidarity with the Halimi family and the French Jewish community,” the minister said.

“Sarah Halimi was murdered only because she was a Jew. Especially today, with the alarming rise in radical Islamic antisemitism throughout France, this court ruling sets a dangerous precedent that jeopardizes the security and well-being of our brothers and sisters in France,” she said, adding that Israel would do “all in its power to ensure the safety of all Jews” around the world.

In London, the British community held a demonstration outside the Embassy of France, joining a day of global protests by Jewish communities around the world.

Campaign Against Antisemitism Chief Executive, Gideon Falter, who organized the rally, said “During the Holocaust, French authorities were too often complicit in the genocide of French Jews. After the war, the nation vowed to defend what remained of its Jewish population. The decision of France’s highest court that torturing and throwing an elderly Jewish woman out of a window cannot be ascribed to following a decision by France’s highest court to spare an antisemitic murder from trial because he was high on cannabis at the time that he committed his crime.’’

France

EU backs France in submarine dispute, asking: Is America back?

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European Union foreign ministers expressed support and solidarity with France on Monday (20 September) during a meeting in New York to discuss Australia's scrapping of a $40 billion submarine order with Paris in favor of a US and British deal, write Michelle Nichols, John Irish, Steve Holland, Sabine Siebold, Philip Blenkinsop and Marine Strauss.

Speaking after the closed-door meeting on the sidelines annual U.N. gathering of world leaders, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said "more cooperation, more coordination, less fragmentation" was needed to achieve a stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific region where China is the major rising power.

Australia said last week it would cancel an order for conventional submarines from France and instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a security partnership with those countries under the name AUKUS. Read more.

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"Certainly, we were caught by surprise by this announcement," Borrell said.

The decision enraged France and earlier on Monday in New York French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused US President Joe Biden's administration of continuing his predecessor Donald Trump's trends of "unilateralism, unpredictability, brutality and not respecting your partner."

The United States has sought to assuage the anger in France, a NATO ally. French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden are due to speak on the phone in the next few days.

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"We are allies, we talk and don't hide elaborate different strategies. That's why there is a crisis in confidence," Le Drian said. "So all that needs clarifications and explanations. It may take time."

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that she expected Biden to "reaffirm our commitment to working with one of our oldest and closest partners on a range of challenges that the global community is facing" when he speaks with Macron.

It is not clear if the dispute will have implications for the next round of EU-Australia trade talks, scheduled for 12 October. Borrell met with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in New York on Monday.

European Council President Charles Michel said that he found it difficult to understand the move by Australia, Britain and the United States.

"Why? Because with the new Joe Biden administration, America is back. This was the historic message sent by this new administration and now we have questions. What does it mean - America is back? Is America back in America or somewhere else? We don't know," he told reporters in New York.

If China was a main focus for Washington then it was "very strange" for the United States to team up with Australia and Britain, he said, calling it a decision that weakened the transatlantic alliance.

Top officials from the United States and European Union are due to meet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, later this month for the inaugural meeting of the newly established US-EU Trade and Technology Council, but Michel said some EU members were pushing for this to be postponed.

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Commission authorizes French aid scheme of €3 billion to support, through loans and equity investments, companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic

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The European Commission has cleared, under EU state aid rules, France's plans to set up a € 3 billion fund that will invest through debt instruments and equity and hybrid instruments in companies affected by the pandemic. The measure was authorized under the Temporary State Aid Framework. The scheme will be implemented through a fund, titled 'Transition Fund for Businesses Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic', with a budget of € 3bn.

Under this scheme, support will take the form of (i) subordinated or participating loans; and (ii) recapitalization measures, in particular hybrid capital instruments and non-voting preferred shares. The measure is open to companies established in France and present in all sectors (except the financial sector), which were viable before the coronavirus pandemic and which have demonstrated the long-term viability of their economic model. Between 50 and 100 companies are expected to benefit from this scheme. The Commission considered that the measures complied with the conditions set out in the temporary framework.

The Commission concluded that the measure was necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of France, in accordance with Article 107 (3) (b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the temporary supervision. On this basis, the Commission authorized these schemes under EU state aid rules.

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Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (pictured), competition policy, said: “This €3bn recapitalization scheme will allow France to support companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic by facilitating their access funding in these difficult times. We continue to work closely with member states to find practical solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic while respecting EU regulations.”

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One person still missing after floods in southern France

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Wind, hail and rain blow in Rodilhan, Gard, France September 14, 2021, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video. @YLONA91/via REUTERS

One person was still reported missing on Tuesday (14 September) after torrential rain hit the Gard region in southern France, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who visited the area, write Dominique Vidalon and Benoit Van Overstraeten, Reuters.

Other people who had been reported missing have been found, local authorities said.

"About 60 villages have been partially hit", Darmanin said on BFM TV.

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"The weather situation has improved since mid-afternoon but it will worsen again overnight," the region's prefect said in a statement, adding that schools in the area would be closed on Wednesday (15 September).

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