PARIS (AFP) – A French court on Wednesday sentenced the murderer of an elderly Jewish woman to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole for 22 years, for the 2018 murder which sparked an outcry against anti-Semitism in France .
Yacine Mihoub was convicted of the murder of Mireille Knoll, 85, who was stabbed 11 times and whose body was partly burned after the fire in her Paris apartment on March 23, 2018.
A second defendant, Alex Carrimbacus, was acquitted of murder by the Paris court, but found guilty of theft on anti-Semitic motives, for which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The court said the attack, which began as a robbery, was fueled by “a broader context of anti-Semitism” and “prejudices” about the alleged wealth of the Jewish people, which led Mihoub to believe that the victim had “hidden treasures” in his house.
Knoll’s family hailed the verdict as “fair”.
French President Emmanuel Macron attended the funeral of the octogenarian, who had survived a notorious round-up of Jews in Paris in 1942 during World War II by fleeing with his mother to Portugal and who later married an Auschwitz survivor.
Mihoub, the son of one of Kroll’s neighbors who described her as a “surrogate grandmother” to him, denied any involvement in her death, instead blaming Carrimbacus.
Knoll’s murder caused further loathing because she suffered from Parkinson’s disease and could not get around without help.
Knoll’s son Daniel told the court that when his mother let Mihoub, who had done odd jobs for her for years, come into her home, “she never expected the person she was she protected for years become her executioner “.
In his final court statement on Wednesday, Carrimbacus told Knoll’s family he regretted not preventing an attack described by the prosecution as “particularly savage”.
The attack was classified as anti-Semitic after Carrimbacus told investigators he overheard Mihoub arguing with Kroll on the day of his death “over the Jews’ money and their wealth.”
He also claimed that Mihoub, who had several convictions for violence, shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is the greatest”) while stabbing her.
Prosecutors also pointed to messages glorifying the jihadist attacks found in Mihoub’s prison cell as evidence of his alleged anti-Semitism.
France’s 500,000-strong Jewish community, the largest in Europe, has been rocked by a series of attacks in recent years by radical Islamists who have targeted Jews.
In March 2011, the gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead a teacher and three children in a Jewish school in the city of Toulouse in March 2011.
Four years later, four people were killed in a hostage-taking in a Jewish supermarket in Paris by an accomplice of the two brothers who had massacred a group of cartoonists about the Muhammad cartoons a few days earlier.
An estimated 30,000 people took part in a silent march in memory of Knoll in March 2018, which was attended by government ministers and leaders of French political parties.
During the three-week murder trial, the defendants, both repeat offenders who had known each other in prison, blamed each other for his death.
The case drew a parallel with the 2017 murder of an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties, Sarah Halimi, who was thrown out of her Paris apartment window by a neighbor shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is the bigger. “)
France’s highest court ruled in April that the killer in the case, Kobili TraorÃ©, was not criminally responsible after succumbing to a “delirium attack” while under the influence of drugs and could not be tried.
The decision infuriated the victim’s family as well as Jewish groups, and prompted Macron to urge a change in French law to ensure that people are held accountable for violent crimes while under the influence of Drugs.