French teacher given police protection after warning of spread of radical Islam in his town

French prosecutors said on Monday that they were investigating threats allegedly made to a teacher who has been placed under police protection after warning of the spread of radical Islam.

French teacher given police protection after warning of spread of radical Islam in his town
He also criticised the state for not doing enough to protect Samuel Paty, the teacher beheaded in a terror attack. Photo: AFP

Didier Lemaire told French media the threats began after he wrote an open letter saying the state did not do enough to protect Samuel Paty, the teacher beheaded in a jihadist attack last October.

Lemaire teaches philosophy at a high school in Trappes, a low-income Paris suburb in the Yvelines département with a large Muslim population that has become emblematic of the government's efforts to curb radicalism.

Authorities say hardline Salafist conservatism has attracted a widespread following in the town, which authorities say was the home of around 50 people who left to fight alongside jihadists in Iraq and Syria in recent years.

“We have been alerted to the worries expressed by this teacher with regards to threats he allegedly received,” the prosecutor's office in nearby Versailles told AFP, without providing details.

A police source confirmed that Lemaire was benefiting from police protection.

“In accordance with his wishes, the school district will ensure, in cooperation with the police, conditions that will allow him to continue teaching at the school,” the Versailles board of education said in a statement.

Paty's killing came as France remains on high alert after a series of terror attacks since the January 2015 massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which had published controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

Paty had showed the cartoons in class as the trial began for suspected accomplices in the attack, angering parents who targeted him in a social media campaign that sparked his killing by an 18-year old Chechen man, Abdullakh Anzorov.

Writing a few weeks later in the news magazine Le Point, Lemaire wrote that “I have been a witness to the sectarianism that is taking an increased hold on people's bodies and minds”.

He said that Paty “was not protected by an institution that underestimated the threat”.

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Paris suburbs see third night of violence

The Parisian suburbs of Sevran, Aulnay-sous-Bois and Tremblay-en-France have seen clashes between residents and police, ever since an officer shot and killed the driver of a stolen van on Saturday.

Paris suburbs see third night of violence

Angry residents and police clashed for a third night in suburbs north of Paris, leading to 13 arrests following the fatal shooting of a father-of-four by an officer at the weekend, police said Tuesday.

Despite a heavy police presence to prevent further violence, several cars, a dozen bins and an abandoned sports centre were set alight overnight in the low-income Sevran, Aulnay-sous-Bois and Tremblay-en-France suburbs, a police source told AFP.

The unrest began Saturday after a police officer fatally shot the driver of a van that had been reported stolen and was being inspected at a traffic light in Sevran at around lunchtime.

The officer was hospitalised afterwards “in a state of shock,” local prosecutor Eric Mathais said Sunday, while internal police investigators have opened a probe into the incident.

Local people who knew the man named as Jean-Paul told AFP that he had taken a van owned by his employer who owed him wages.

They have also questioned how the officer could justify opening fire when his life was not in danger, which is the only justification for using a weapon under French law.

A protest march by the dead man’s family is expected in the next few days.

Residents in France’s multiracial suburbs often complain about heavy-handed policing methods and violence that have led to a series of scandals in recent years, including the February 2017 arrest of a black man who was allegedly sodomised with a police baton.

Police unions say officers often face hostility and attacks, and are faced with the difficult task of trying to maintain order in impoverished high-rise housing estates that in some cases are centres of drug dealing and other criminality.

The French government began a public consultation in February aimed at devising ways to increase public confidence in the police.