Two men were on trial Tuesday for the 2018 murder of an elderly Jewish woman which sparked protests and alarm in France over anti-Semitic crimes.
The partly burnt body of Mireille Knoll, 85, was found in her apartment in central Paris after being stabbed 11 times before her house was set on fire.
President Emmanuel Macron attended the funeral of the Holocaust survivor who escaped a notorious 1942 roundup of more than 13,000 Jews in Paris by fleeing with her mother to Portugal when she was nine years old.
Two men have been charged with his murder, a 25-year-old homeless man with psychiatric problems and the 31-year-old son of one of Kroll’s neighbors.
Ms Knoll’s son expects ‘harsh verdict’
The two, who met in prison and have been convicted of theft and violence in the past, both deny killing the fragile and immobile grandmother and blame the other for her death.
“We will need a miracle for the truth to come out of their mouths,” Gilles-William Goldnadel, lawyer for the Knoll family, told reporters as he entered court, adding that it was about a case of “antisemitism motivated by financial gain.”
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Prosecutors are treating the murder as an anti-Semitic hate crime because one of the men said he heard the other “talk about the Jews’ money and their wealth” and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (” God is the greatest “) while stabbing her.
The investigation also showed that one of the suspects, named Yacine Mihoub, had an “ambivalent” attitude towards Islamic extremism, prosecutors said.
“They are monsters,” Knoll’s son Daniel Knoll told reporters on Tuesday. “We expect a very harsh verdict.”
Mihoub, 31, and his co-defendant Alex Carrimbacus, 25, were both present at the court or trial which is scheduled to last until November 10.
“Murdered because he was a Jew”
The murder was the latest in a series of attacks that have horrified France’s 500,000-strong Jewish community and exacerbated concerns about how rising Islamic extremism is fueling anti-Semitism.
An estimated 30,000 people took part in a silent march in his memory in March 2018, which was attended by government ministers and leaders of French political parties.
One of the organizers, Sabrina Moise, said at the time that although she “loves France”, she felt it was “no longer safe for Jews because of rampant anti-Semitism”.
In 2012, Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southwestern city of Toulouse.
Three years later, an armed man killed four people in a hostage-taking in a Jewish supermarket in the French capital.
And in 2017, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties, Sarah Halimi, was thrown out of her Paris apartment window by a neighbor shouting “Allahu Akhbar”.
France’s highest court ruled in April that the killer, Kobili Traore, was not criminally responsible for a crime after succumbing to a “fit of delirium” 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.
It also sparked protests in France and Israel.
Speaking of Knoll, Macron said his killer “murdered an innocent and vulnerable woman because she was Jewish and in so doing sullied our most sacred values and our memory.”