France: Killed teacher’s pupils handed over to judge amid probe

Pupils who identified Samuel Paty to the attacker before gruesome killing among those investigated.

People attend a silent march to pay tribute to Samuel Paty in Paris on October 20. The slogan reads 'Love for all, hatred for no one' [Lucien Libert/Reuters]

Seven people, including two minors, were handed over to a judge overnight as part of an ongoing investigation into Friday’s murder of French teacher Samuel Paty, an official from the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office said.

The grisly killing, in which an 18-year-old of Chechen origin beheaded Paty in broad daylight outside his school in a middle-class Paris suburb, has left the country reeling.

President Emmanuel Macron will posthumously award Paty the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civil distinction, in a ceremony on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has called on people to stop attacking mosques in the aftermath of the killing, writing on Twitter: “Such acts are unacceptable on the soil of the Republic.”

People gather at the Place de la Republique in Paris to pay tribute to Samuel Paty [File: Charles Platiau/Reuters]

After the killing on Friday, police shot the attacker dead by the school.

Investigators say the teenager was angered by his victim showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad – previously published by a satirical magazine – in a class on freedom of expression. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

A school parent had posted a video online, accusing the teacher of showing naked pictures of the Prophet in class. He was among the seven presented to the judge.

Richard Ferrand, speaker of the lower house of parliament and a former teacher, told BFM television that parents should “stay out of schools and leave teachers alone. One must hand back full authority to the teachers”.

Prosecutors say the attacker approached pupils outside the school asked them to identify Paty as he left for home.

Two of those pupils were among those presented to the judge, as was Abdelhakim Sefrioui from the Cheikh Yassine Collective, whose closure could be decided later in the day by the French cabinet.

Macron and other top officials, including the interior minister, have promised an intensified crackdown on Muslim organisations they find to be spreading hate.

On Tuesday, France closed a mosque that shared a video on its Facebook page before the attack that condemned Paty and shared his address; the mosque later apologised.

Interior Minister Darmanin said this week that France was being confronted by an “enemy within”.

There are rising concerns about the possibility of collective punishment being meted out in France’s response to Paty’s killing.

Darmanin has threatened to close the Collective against Islamophobia in France, an anti-racist civil society group, prompting concerns from activists.

“We are concerned by the political pressures, at the highest level of the French government, and intimidation campaign targeting a human rights organisation whose work is to address discrimination and hate crimes against Muslim citizens,” said the European Network Against Racism.

The murder, which has provoked a series of protests, carried echoes of the attack five years ago on the offices of satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, after the magazine published the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

French regional newspaper La Nouvelle Republique has received threats on social media after it published a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on its front page, one of its journalists said on Wednesday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies