French court opens case against teens over beheading of teacher

The teacher was killed in 2020 outside his school in Paris, after sharing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class.

A memorial to slain French teacher Samuel Paty
A photograph taken on October 16, 2023 shows a commemorative plaque for slain teacher Samuel Paty [Bertnard Guay/Pool via Reuters]

Six teenagers have gone on trial behind closed doors in connection with the beheading of French history teacher Samuel Paty.

The murder, which shocked the country, took place in 2020 after the teacher had shown his pupils caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.

Paty, 47, was killed outside his school in a Paris suburb by Abdoullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old assailant of Chechen origin, who was shot dead by police soon afterwards.

The six youths cannot be identified due to their age. They entered court on Monday wearing hoodies to hide their faces.

Five of the six, who were 14 to 15 years old at the time, face up to 2.5 years in prison for criminal conspiracy with intent to cause violence. They are accused of identifying the teacher to the killer in exchange for money.

The other defendant, a girl who was 13 at the time, allegedly told her parents that Paty had asked Muslim pupils to leave the room before showing the caricatures. However, she was not in the class at the time.

Consumed with regret

During questioning, the teenagers swore that at most they thought Paty would be “flagged up on social media”, “humiliated” or maybe “roughed up”, but they never imagined “it would go as far as murder”.

“He is consumed with regret and is very fearful of the confrontation with Paty’s family,” Antoine Ory, lawyer for one of the accused, said on Monday before the hearing started.

Paty’s sister Mickaelle said in a statement through lawyer Louis Cailliez that her brother would still be alive without a “fatal association of small cowardices, big lies”.

“The role of the minors was fundamental in the sequence of events that led to his assassination,” a lawyer for Paty’s family said.

The hearings, due to last until December 8, will be held behind closed doors. Eight adults are also accused and will appear before a special criminal court.

Last month, almost two years to the day of Paty’s killing, a 20-year-old man fatally stabbed teacher Dominique Bernard and gravely wounded two other people in an attack at a school in northern France.

Like Anzorov, Bernard’s suspected killer Mohammed Moguchkov also hailed from Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus region.

Anzorov targeted Paty after messages spread on social media that the teacher had shown his class the cartoons. They had originally featured in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015, triggering a deadly attack by gunmen.

Source: News Agencies