Six French teenagers convicted for their role in the murder of a teacher by an Islamic extremist

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A French juvenile court has convicted six teenagers for their role in the beheading of a teacher by an Islamic extremist that shocked the country.

PARIS – A French juvenile court on Friday convicted six teenagers for their role in the 2020 beheading of a teacher by an Islamic extremist, an attack that shocked the country and shed light on the real-world dangers of online hate speech. .

Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher, was murdered near his school after showing his class caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a debate on freedom of expression. Police killed the attacker Abdoullakh Anzorov, a young Chechen who had become radicalized.

The court found five of the defendants, who were aged 14 and 15 at the time of the attack, guilty of participating in surveilling the teacher and identifying him for the attacker. The sixth defendant, who was 13 at the time, was found guilty of lying about classroom debate in a comment that aggravated online anger against the teacher.

After the ruling, the six defendants left the courtroom without speaking. Some had their heads bowed as they listened to the verdict. One seemed to wipe away tears.

The teenagers, all students at Paty’s school, acknowledged having acted wrongly and testified that they did not know that the teacher would be killed.

One of them was given a six-month prison sentence, but was allowed to serve it under house arrest with an electronic bracelet. The others received special suspended sentences of between two and three years, requiring them to remain at school or work and attend regular medical meetings. The sentences included special educational monitoring measures that also involved their families.

Lawyers for Paty’s family criticized the sentences as too lenient. Lawyers for the teens expressed relief.

Paty’s name was spread on social media after the class debate, during which she showed caricatures of the prophet of Islam published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The publication sparked a deadly massacre by extremists in the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in 2015.

The five who identified Paty as the aggressor were convicted of participation in a group that prepared aggravated violence.

The sixth defendant wrongly claimed that Paty had asked the Muslim students to raise their hands and leave the classroom before showing them the cartoons. She was not in the classroom that day and later told investigators that she had lied. She was found guilty of making false accusations.

His lawyer Mbeko Tebula said that “this lie cannot be forgiven.”

”She didn’t imagine that this… would turn into such horror,” he said. “She was 13 years old.”

“She will try to move on,” he said. “She will try to rebuild herself as a woman. Live with this permanent guilt, which will not pass through her but will inhabit her.”

The girl’s father shared the lie in an online video that called for mobilization against the teacher. Now imprisoned, her father and a radical Islamic activist who helped spread virulent messages against Paty are among eight adults who will face a separate trial for adults suspected of involvement in the murder, scheduled for late next year.

Lawyer Virginie Le Roy, who represents Paty’s family, had tears in her eyes as she described her anger that the punishment was not more severe.

”Yes, I’m excited. I am moved by this family, also by the memory of Samuel. A decapitated man in the street is nothing. We are in France. This was in 2020,’ he said. The sentences are “a bad sign for Samuel’s family, a bad sign for the students and a bad sign for the teachers.”

School teachers and Paty’s relatives were in the courtroom along with some of the defendants’ parents. Relatives of the teens comforted each other afterward, some appearing exhausted or resigned. They refused to speak to journalists.

The media cannot reveal the identity of the accused, according to French law on minors.

The trial comes weeks after a teacher was fatally stabbed and three other people were injured in northern France in October in an attack on a school carried out by a former student suspected of Islamic radicalization. That murder occurred in a context of global tensions over the war between Israel and Hamas and led French authorities to deploy 7,000 additional soldiers throughout the country to reinforce security and surveillance.

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