PARIS (AP) — Six teenagers will go on trial Monday in Paris for their alleged role in the beheading of a teacher who showed caricatures of Islam’s prophet to his class, a murder that prompted authorities to reaffirm cherished rights of expression and freedom. secularism of France.
Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher, was murdered on October 16, 2020 near his school in a northwestern suburb of Paris by an 18-year-old boy of Chechen origin who had become radicalized. The attacker, in turn, was shot dead by the police.
Paty’s name was spread on social media after a class debate on freedom of expression during which he showed cartoons published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which sparked a massacre in the newsroom by extremists in January 2015.
All hearings in a Paris juvenile court will be held behind closed doors, in accordance with French juvenile law.
The defendants arrived at the Paris court on Monday morning, their faces hidden behind masks and hoods, accompanied by their families. The media cannot reveal his identity.
Among those going on trial, a teenage girl, who was 13 at the time, is accused of making false accusations by wrongly saying that Paty had asked Muslim students to raise their hands and leave the classroom before showing the cartoons. She later told investigators that she had lied. She was not in the classroom that day and Paty made no such request, the investigation showed.
Five other students from Paty’s school, who were 14 and 15 years old at the time, face charges of conspiracy to commit a crime with the aim of preparing to commit aggravated violence.
They are accused of having waited for Paty for several hours until he left school and of identifying him to the murderer in exchange for promises of payments of 300 to 350 euros (between 348 and 406 dollars).
The investigation established that the attacker knew the teacher’s name and the address of his school, but did not have the means to identify him.
The lawyer for one of the accused, Antoine Ory, said his client is “tormented by remorse and very afraid of confrontation with Mr. Paty’s family.” He said the teenager “obviously did not know about the criminal plan” of the killer, Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Moscow-born Chechen refugee.
Ory said his client has since gone through “difficult” times, changing schools and friends and now sees the trial as an opportunity to turn the page.
The six teenagers face two and a half years in prison. The trial is scheduled to end on December 8.
Louis Cailliez, lawyer for Paty’s sister, Mickaëlle, said he wants to “understand the real causes” that led the students to commit something irreparable. He pointed out the “fatal combination of small acts of cowardice, big lies, slander, arrangements, complicities and help without which Samuel Paty would still be alive.”
“Without the complaint there would be no visibility (on social networks), without visibility there would be no crime,” he stated.
Eight other adults will be sent to trial later. Among them is the teenager’s father accused of false accusations. At that time, he had published videos on social networks that called for mobilization against the teacher.
A radical Islamic activist who helped him spread the virulent messages naming Paty has also been charged.
The trial comes six weeks after a teacher was fatally stabbed and three other people were injured in a school attack carried out by a former student suspected of Islamic radicalization. The murder, in a context of global tensions due to the war between Israel and Hamas, led French authorities to deploy 7,000 additional soldiers throughout the country to reinforce security and surveillance.