The murder of French teacher Samuel Paty by a radicalised 18-year-old shocked the country. Now six teenagers go on trial in Paris for their alleged role.
Six teenagers go on trial in Paris on Monday for their alleged role in the beheading of Samuel Paty, a French teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet of Islam to his class.
The killing horrified France and prompted authorities to reaffirm the country’s cherished right to free speech and secularism.
Paty, a history and geography teacher, was killed near his school in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on 16 October by a radicalised 18-year-old refugee of Chechen origin, Abdoullakh Anzorov. The attacker was shot dead by the police.
Paty’s name was spread on social media after a class debate on freedom of expression in which he showed cartoons published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which sparked a massacre at its offices by extremists in January 2015.
The teacher had used the magazine as part of an ethics lesson discussing freedom of speech in France. Blasphemy is legal in the country, and there’s a long history of cartoons mocking religious figures.
Paty was murdered less than a month after the magazine republished the cartoons.
Waiting for Paty
All hearings in a Paris juvenile court are to be held without the media, in accordance with French law on minors.
Among those on trial is a 13-year-old girl accused of making false accusations for claiming that Paty had asked Muslim students to raise their hands and leave the classroom before showing the cartoons.
The truth was that the girl had never been in Paty’s class.
A heated debate erupted on social media over her false accusations. Her father, Brahim Chnina, and Islamist militant Abdelhakim Sefrioui posted videos denouncing the French teacher and naming him.
The teenager later told investigators that she had lied. She admitted she was not in the classroom that day and Paty made no such request.
Five other students at Paty’s school, aged 14 and 15 at the time, are charged with criminal conspiracy to prepare the commission of grievous bodily harm.
The investigation revealed that the attacker knew the teacher’s name and the address of his school, but did not have the means to identify him.
This is why Anzorov promised payments of € 300-350 to these children in exchange for waiting for Paty for several hours until he left the school and identifying him.
According to the investigation, one of the boys didn’t want to do it alone, so he convinced the others.
Le Monde reported that while they waited, Anzorov asked one of the boys to call the teenager who had first accused Paty, and she repeated the lie. She later told investigators she didn’t know the attacker was listening in.
All six teenagers face 2 1/2 years in prison. The trial is due to end on 8 December.
Eight other adults are due to be tried at a later date. They include the father of the teenage girl who was charged with making false allegations. At the time, he had posted videos on social media that called for mobilisation against the teacher.
A radical Islamic activist who helped him spread the virulent messages with Paty’s name has also been charged.