Trio jailed in France over links to 2016 jihadist killing of priest

Three men have been handed jail terms by a court in Paris over the jihadist murder of an 85-year-old priest in northwest France in 2016.

Trio jailed in France over links to 2016 jihadist killing of priest
Father Jacques Hamel was killed in a jihadist attack in 2016. (Photo: Marco Zeppetella / AFP)

Father Jacques Hamel had his throat slit at the foot of the altar on July 26th, 2016, at his small church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a working-class suburb of Rouen, Normandy.

The two 19-year-old assailants, Adel Kermiche and Abdel-Malik Petitjean, who also seriously wounded a worshipper after bursting in during mass and taking hostages, were shot and killed by police as they tried to leave the church.

They had claimed in a video to be members of the Islamic State, which later called them its “soldiers” retaliating for France’s fight against jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

With the perpetrators dead, the three suspects on trial – Jean-Philippe Jean Louis, Farid Khelil and Yassine Sebaihia – were charged with “association in a terrorist act”.

The Paris court sentenced Sebaihia to eight years in prison, Khelil to 10 years and Jean Louis to 13 years.

Jean Louis, 25, was found to have run a Telegram channel in the area which played a central role in spreading jihadist ideas among youth.

Khelil, 36, was told he had consistently reinforced the determination of Petitjean, his cousin, to carry out an act of terror.

Sebaihia, 27, meanwhile had visited Kermiche two days before the killing and was found to have been aware of the killers’ jihadist intentions.

A fourth defendant, Rachid Kassim, presumed dead in Iraq, was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for “complicity” in the killing – defendants are tried in France even if they are presumed, but not confirmed, to be dead.

They had all been in contact with the assailants, with Jean Louis also travelling with Petitjean to Turkey just weeks before the attack in an attempt to reach Syria.

The court ruled that even if the defendents did not know the details of the plot, they were “perfectly aware that Adel Kermiche and Abdel-Malik Petitjean belonged to an association of criminals and were preparing a violent action”.

The trial however was marked by scenes of reconciliation between the accused and relatives of the victim which have been almost unheard of in the legal processes over the spate of jihadist killings in France since 2015.

Khelil had earlier on Wednesday asked for forgiveness from the family, a move that the priest’s sister Roseline Hamel said “had done a lot of good”.

Ahead of the verdict, Roseline Hamel had also reached out to the four sisters of Jean Louis to comfort them and given a photo of her brother to each of the three accused.

Hamel’s murder came as the country was on high alert over a series of jihadist attacks that began with a massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, which have claimed more than 250 lives.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Hackers post French hospital patient data online

Hackers who crippled a French hospital and stole a trove of data last month have released personal records of patients online, officials have confirmed.

Hackers post French hospital patient data online

The cyberattackers demanded a multimillion dollar ransom from the Corbeil-Essonnes hospital near Paris a month ago, but the institution refused to pay.

The hospital said the hackers had now dumped medical scans and lab analyses along with the social security numbers of patients.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the unspeakable disclosure of hacked data,” health minister Fran├žois Braun tweeted on Sunday.

Hospitals around the world have been facing increasing attacks from ransomware groups, particularly since the pandemic stretched resources to breaking point.

The problem has been acute in France, where officials estimated early last year that healthcare institutions were facing on average an attack every week.

President Emmanuel Macron last year called the attacks during the pandemic a “crisis within a crisis” and announced an extra one billion euros for cybersecurity.

During last month’s attack, the Corbeil-Essonnes hospital shut down its emergency services and sent many patients to other institutions.

At one point, officials said the only technology still working was the telephone.

Rather than selling the trove of data, the hacker has dumped at least some of it for download on the “dark web” — a hidden part of the internet that requires special software to access.

Analysts said it seemed to be a tactic to put pressure on the hospital, even though public institutions are banned by French law from paying ransoms.

Cybersecurity researcher Damien Bancal, who revealed the leak and has seen the files, told AFP the worry is that other criminals will now launch scams with the data that has already been divulged.

In response to the leak on the weekend, the hospital severely restricted access to its systems and told patients to be extremely vigilant when receiving emails, text messages or phone calls.