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Six Teens Go On Trial Over 2020 Beheading Of French Teacher

The 47-year-old history and geography teacher was stabbed and then beheaded near his secondary school in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on October 16, 2020.


A photograph taken on October 16, 2023 shows a commemorative plaque for slain teacher Samuel Paty (portrait) near the Bois d’Aulne school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, outside Paris. Six teenagers will be tried by the juvenile court from November 27, 2023 in the case of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded on October 16, 2020 by a radicalised young man. (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / POOL / AFP)

 

Six teenagers went on trial in Paris on Monday for their role in the 2020 beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, the first of two trials in a case that horrified France.

The suspects, some wearing sunglasses and surgical masks, arrived holding their coats over their faces to disguise their identities before entering the juvenile court.

The trial is being held behind closed doors given the young ages — between 13 and 15 years old — of the defendants at the time of the events.

Only people directly affected by the case can attend the hearing. The press does not have access to the courtroom, guarded by police officers, and it is banned to report what is said during the hearings, even by quoting lawyers.

The 47-year-old history and geography teacher was stabbed and then beheaded near his secondary school in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on October 16, 2020.

His attacker, 18-year-old Chechen refugee Abdoullakh Anzorov, was shot dead at the scene by police.

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The young radicalised Islamist murdered Paty after messages spread on social media that the teacher had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Paty had used the magazine as part of an ethics class to discuss free speech laws in France, where blasphemy is legal and cartoons mocking religious figures have a long history.

His killing took place just weeks after Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoons. When the magazine first used the images in 2015, Islamist gunmen stormed its office, killing 12 people.

Last month another teacher, Dominique Bernard, was killed in Arras in northern France by a young radicalised Islamist.

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

‘Role Of The Minors’ 

Five of the adolescents on trial, who were 14 or 15 at the time of Paty’s murder, are being tried for criminal conspiracy with intent to cause violence.

They are accused of having been on the lookout for Paty and identifying him to the killer in exchange for money.

A sixth teenager, a girl 13 at the time, is accused of false allegations for wrongly saying that Paty had asked Muslim students to identify themselves and leave the classroom before he showed the cartoons. She was not present in the class.

She arrived in the courtroom with her head completely hidden in the hood of her black down jacket.

Louis Cailliez, a lawyer for the Paty family, said he expected the defence team to explain away the defendants’ actions as “errors of youth”.

But, he said, the trial needed to elucidate “the true reasons why these pupils committed the unforgivable”.

“He is eaten up with remorse,” said one of the defendants’ lawyers, Antoine Ory, about his client. “He is terrified, very worried about coming face to face with Samuel Paty’s family.”

A trial of eight adults also implicated in the case is scheduled for late 2024.

Paty’s family see the trial of the teenagers as crucial, according to Virginie Le Roy, a lawyer representing his parents and one of his sisters.

“The role of the minors was fundamental in the sequence of events that led to his assassination,” she said.

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”.

They now are high school pupils and risk two-and-a-half years in prison if convicted.

“It is complicated,” said Dylan Slama, the lawyer for one of the accused.

“He will be associated with this for the rest of his life.”

The trial is scheduled to last until December 8.

AFP