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March 29, 2018 11:21 am

French Police Reveal Details of Suspects Detained for Brutal Antisemitic Murder of Holocaust Survivor

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A button on display at a march in Paris attended by thousands of people in memory of murdered Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll. Photo: Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes.

One day after thousands of people marched in Paris in memory of Mireille Knoll — the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor murdered in her Paris apartment on March 23 in a brutal antisemitic assault — French authorities have revealed the first details of the two suspects taken into custody earlier this week.

The first suspect was named on Wednesday as 28-year-old Yacine M., whose parents were neighbors of Mrs. Knoll’s in the public housing building where she lived in the French capital’s 11th arrondissement. Yacine M. had known Mrs. Knoll since his childhood, and reportedly visited her on a regular basis. In 2015, however, he carried out a sexual assault on the daughter of Mrs. Knoll’s day care assistant, receiving a two-year prison sentence as a result.

While serving his jail time, Yacine M. met the second suspect, named as 21-year-old Alex C. After his release in September 2017, Yacine M. was barred from entering the building where Mrs. Knoll lived. Alex C., who was released in January, was meanwhile barred from the entire 11th arrondissement.

On the day of the murder, several French news outlets reported on Wednesday, Yacine M. is alleged to have told his companion that “the Jews have a good situation.” Alex C. is also reported to have claimed that Yacine M. shouted the Muslim maxim “Allahu akbar” before he stabbed Mrs. Knoll — whose badly wounded and burned body was discovered by firefighters when they arrived at the building to extinguish a blaze started by the suspects — multiple times.

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Both men have been charged with voluntary homicide aggravated by antisemitism, and will remain in pre-trial detention while police continue their investigations.

In an interview on Wednesday with the Europe 1 broadcaster, the lawyer representing Yacine M., Fabrice de Korodi, strongly denied that antisemitism was a factor in Mrs Knoll’s murder. He said that Yacine M. had described Mrs Knoll as “his benefactor, he helped her with shopping, she gave him a small room on occasion, she was a neighbor he appreciated.”

In an article reflecting on Tuesday evening’s demonstration in memory of Mrs. Knoll, Marc Knobel – director of studies at the Jewish representative organization CRIF, which called the rally — praised the “thousands of citizens of all ages, of all faiths, including many parliamentarians and elected representatives of the Republic, who expressed their deep emotion, their solidarity and their attachment to republican values.”

After years of silence and hesitation on the issue of antisemitism, Knobel noted, the rally sent a clear message that “an elderly disabled woman was murdered because she was Jewish.”

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