Charlie Hebdo to give €4.3m to attack victims

Charlie Hebdo said Monday €4.3 million in donations will go to the victims of a jihadist attack against the French satirical magazine, which has faced internal tensions over the use of the money.

Charlie Hebdo to give €4.3m to attack victims
Copies of Charlie Hebdo have flown off the shelves since the attacks. Photo: AFP
The provocative weekly was on the brink of bankruptcy when two Islamist brothers in January gunned down 12 people at its offices, including journalists and two policemen, over its cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
The attack made the newspaper a household name around the world as the Twitter hashtag #jesuischarlie went viral and it became a symbol for freedom of speech.
Charlie Hebdo issues flew off the shelves and it was inundated with donations.
The publication's management said Monday in a statement that donations had come from 36,000 people in 84 different countries and would be “handed over in full to the victims.”
“The distribution of this money will be entrusted to a committee of wise men which we have asked the justice ministry to choose,” said the statement.
Charlie Hebdo has been split over the use of the money, with some staff members accusing management of not being transparent enough about its plans. 
Some 15 of the magazine's 20 staff have called for all employees to become equal shareholders in the magazine.
“This money must be given to the victims. That is the commitment that was made,” said Patrick Pelloux, a Charlie Hebdo columnist who survived the attack and is part of the group calling for equal division of the magazine's capital.
“But, at this time we don't really know how that will happen,” he told France Info radio, adding that management had not properly communicated its plans.
– 'Fanciful figures' –
Charlie Hebdo is currently 40 percent owned by the parents of Charb, the former director of the magazine who was killed in the January 7 attack; 40 percent by cartoonist Riss, who was injured during the shooting; and 20 percent by joint manager Eric Portheault.
In its statement management said it wanted to rectify the “fanciful figures that are circulating on the magazine's revenues.”
Its total profits from sales since the attack are estimated at 12 million euros before company tax of 33.33 percent, said the shareholders, reiterating “their absolute commitment to collect no dividend from these sums.”
A lawyer representing the magazine's management earlier told AFP that the donations would go to victims' families, and that proceeds from sales would go into the magazine's coffers and would be used to create a foundation, notably to teach freedom of expression in schools.
Charlie Hebdo was selling 30,000 copies a week before the attack, and its “survivors issue” in the aftermath sold eight million copies, said Christophe Thevenet, a lawyer for the publication.
He said the most recent edition sold 170,000 copies and that circulation was expected to settle at around 100,000.
Cartoonist Riss told Le Monde newspaper that he was open to discussion on dividing Charlie Hebdo's capital, but only in September after it unveils its new format.
“Today, I fear we would take emotional decisions.”


Charlie Hebdo terror attacks: French court jails accomplices

A Paris court on Wednesday handed jail terms ranging from four years to life to more than a dozen people convicted of helping Islamist gunmen who attacked satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and customers at a Jewish supermarket in January 2015.

Charlie Hebdo terror attacks: French court jails accomplices
Court sketches of the 14 accused. Photo: AFP

Survivors and family members of the dead sat in silence as the verdicts were read out, which they hailed afterwards as a victory for justice and freedom of speech after a sometimes traumatic trial that revived the horror of the killings.

The editor of Charlie Hebdo Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, who lives under round-the-clock police protection, was also in court to hear the sentencing by a five-member team of magistrates who had listened to evidence against the accused over three months. 

“It's been painful, searing. It's been a stage in our mourning process, necessary and unavoidable,” said a lawyer for Charlie Hebdo, Richard Malka. “I hope it's the start of something else, of an awareness, a wake up call.” 

In the absence of the attackers themselves — all three were killed by security forces in the days after their rampage — French investigators instead focused on accomplices to the men, including their weapon suppliers.

The main accused, Ali Riza Polat, was judged to have known about his friend Amedy Coulibaly's plans to take part in the attacks, and was given a 30-year sentence for complicity, which he immediately said he would appeal.

Another 10 accused were present in court, all men ranging from 29 to 68 years old with prior criminal records but no terror convictions. They were all found guilty on a range of charges.

In all, 13 sentences were handed down, including to two accused who were tried in absentia: Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of gunman Coulibaly, received a 30-year sentence, while Mohamed Belhoucine, a known Islamic extremist, was handed a life term.

Both of them are presumed to be in Syria and may be dead.

A fourteenth suspect was not sentenced because he was convicted in a separate terror trial earlier this year and is thought to dead. 

'Freedom has last word' 

During the attacks in January 2015, seventeen people were killed over three days, beginning with the massacre of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo magazine by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi.

They said they were acting on behalf of Al-Qaeda to avenge Charlie Hebdo's decision to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, while Coulibaly had sworn loyalty to the Islamic State group.

Coulibaly was responsible for the murder of a French policewoman and a hostage-taking at a Hyper Cacher market in which four Jewish men were killed.

Those shot dead in the Charlie Hebdo office included some of France's most celebrated cartoonists such as Jean Cabut, known as Cabu, 76, Georges Wolinski, 80, and Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, 47.

To mark the start of the trial on September 2, the fiercely anti-religion magazine defiantly republished the prophet cartoons, leading to a fresh violence and protests against France in many Muslim countries.

Three weeks later, a Pakistani man wounded two people outside the magazine's former offices, hacking at them with a cleaver.

On October 16, a young Chechen refugee beheaded teacher Samuel Paty who had showed some of the caricatures to his pupils.

And on October 29, three people were killed when a young Tunisian recently arrived in Europe went on a stabbing spree in a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

President Emmanuel Macron's government has introduced legislation to tackle radical Islamist activity in France, a bill that has stirred anger in some Muslim countries.

On the cover of its new issue published before the verdicts, Charlie Hebdo in typically provocative style published a picture of God being led away in a police van with the title “God put in his place”.

“The cycle of violence, which had began in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, will finally be closed,” editor Riss, who was badly injured in the attacks, wrote in an editorial.

“At least from the perspective of criminal law, because from a human one, the consequences will never be erased,,” he added.

'Thanks to justice' 

The Charlie Hebdo killings triggered a global outpouring of solidarity with France under the “I am Charlie” slogan and signalled the start of a wave of Islamist attacks around Europe.

Later that year, in November 2015, Paris was again besieged when Islamist gunmen went on the rampage at the Bataclan concert hall, the national stadium and at a host of bars and restaurants.

A trial of the only surviving gunman and suspected accomplices is expected to start in September next year. 

Christophe Deloire, the head of press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said he welcomed the verdict in court on Wednesday.

“It is proof that violent extremists don't have the last word. Thanks to justice, it is freedom that has the last word,” he wrote on Twitter.

Patrick Klugman, lawyer for the victims at Hyper Cacher, said: “For most of the victims… I believe that they have feeling of having been heard.”