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PARIS — A man who killed a French Holocaust survivor was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for a March 2018 attack that the court said was rooted in antisemitism.

The son of one of the victim's neighbors, Yacine Mihoub, stabbed 85-year-old Mireille Knoll 11 times and then left her in a burning Paris apartment. Another man involved, Alex Carrimbacus, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for theft.

Knoll's killing shook France and put a spotlight on concerns over antisemitism in the country, following the murder of another Jewish woman living nearby, Sarah Halimi, a year before, and the attack on a kosher supermarket in 2015, among other incidents.

In the wake of Knoll's slaying, thousands took to the streets of the French capital to march against antisemitism.

The French court ruled late Wednesday that her killing was the result of a robbery, motivated by an antisemitic prejudice that Knoll was hiding valuables in her apartment.

During the two-week long trial, the two defendants accused each other of having killed Knoll.

Carrimbacus said Mihoub shouted the Arabic phrase for "God is greatest" while he stabbed Knoll - a claim Mihoub denied.

Knoll and her mother escaped the "Vel d'Hiv" roundup of Parisian Jews in July 1942, according to Meyer Habib, a French lawmaker who said he has been in contact with Knoll's relatives. During the roundup, approximately 13,000 Jews were arrested and deposited in a stadium near the Eiffel Tower. Knoll escaped to Portugal, likely avoiding being sent to Auschwitz.

In what appeared to be a deviation from prior practices, French authorities quickly characterized her murder as having been motivated by antisemitism in 2018.

Knoll was murdered "because she was Jewish," said President Emmanuel Macron, who attended her funeral.

Some Jewish groups had argued that French authorities have often hesitated or been too slow at naming antisemitism as the motive behind attacks on Jews or on Jewish targets.

After Halimi's killing in 2017, investigators hesitated to do so, despite numerous details suggesting that an antisemitic link existed. A court in April officially established an antisemitic motive, even though it said that her suspected killer cannot be prosecuted because he was in a cannabis-induced state of mental delirium at the time of the attack. The lack of a conviction sparked outrage among the French Jewish community and drew criticism from Macron.

"Deciding to take narcotics and then 'going mad' should not, in my view, remove your criminal responsibility," Macron told the right-leaning daily Le Figaro.

His assurances to the country's Jewish community came as European officials warned that the coronavirus pandemic could give rise to a wave of antisemitic hate crimes on the continent. Earlier this month, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said "existing antisemitic discourse has been revived" by the pandemic, "and new antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories" have emerged.

In this Wednesday, March 28, 2018 file photo, flowers and placards are displayed outside Mireille Knoll’s apartment during a silent march in Paris, France.
In this Wednesday, March 28, 2018 file photo, flowers and placards are displayed outside Mireille Knoll’s apartment during a silent march in Paris, France. (Thibault Camus/AP)

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