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Six pupils go on trial over 2020 murder of French schoolteacher

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Six pupils go on trial over 2020 murder of French schoolteacher
Members of the public sits in front of a portrait of Samuel Paty at a memorial event. Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

Six teenagers go 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.

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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.

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

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.

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His killing took place just weeks after Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoons. When the magazine first used the images in 2015, Islamic 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.

Five of the adolescents on trial, who were 14 or 15 at the time of Paty's murder, will be judged behind closed doors in juvenile court 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, who was 13 at the time, is accused of false accusation for wrongly saying that Paty had asked Muslim students to identify themselves and leave the classroom before he showed the cartoons.

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.

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"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 8th.

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