An eight-year-old boy in France was questioned by police for half an hour Wednesday after he allegedly made comments in school in praise of terrorists, police said.
The child triggered concern when he refused to take part in a minute's silence at his school in the southern city of Nice after Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on January 7, according to Marcel Authier, in charge of the region's public security.
The boy's teacher said the child also expressed "solidarity" with the gunmen.
"In the current context, the principal of the school decided to report to police what had happened," said Authier, who stressed no complaint had been filed against the boy.
"We summoned the child and his father to try and comprehend how an eight-year-old boy could hold such radical ideas," he added.
"Obviously, the child doesn't understand what he's saying."
The boy's lawyer Sefen Guez Guez was not immediately available for comment but on his Twitter feed (@IbnSalah) he wrote that the child admitted to police saying the words: "I am with the terrorists".
Yet when police asked what the word "terrorism" meant, he replied: "I don't know", according to the tweet.
"Father and son are deeply shocked by their treatment which illustrates the collective hysteria that has engulfed France since early January," said the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) in a statement.
The story prompted a public reaction and it wasn't long before #Ahmed8ans (Ahmed eight-years-old) was trending on Twitter.
While some right-wing politicians have backed the school’s reaction, civil liberties groups have blasted the the courts by handing out jail sentences to those accused of "glorifying terrorism".
Agnes Tricoire, from the Human Rights League (Ligue des droits de l’homme) tells The Local why the school failed to do its job and why France is in danger of giving the terrorists exactly what they aimed for.
“By handing over the case of the eight-year-old boy to police, the school reneged on its job," she said.
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"When it comes to a boy that young it is up to the school and the teachers to find out what he said and explain to him why these words are not allowed. It’s about teaching him, not about punishing him. This is not a case for the police, they have other things to do.
“I think most teachers would know that this is their job, but there are clearly some who have lost their common sense and have been affected by the current climate in France, which has become very repressive," Tricoire added.
“The terrorists wanted to attack our freedoms so we cannot give them what they wanted.
“We can understand sending people to prison for crimes of violence but not for expression. The real people they must target are the activists trying to encourage others to carry out attacks."