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Six Teenagers Convicted in France Over Teacher’s Beheading in 2020

Six teenagers have been convicted in connection with events leading to the beheading of their teacher Samuel Paty in 2020, in a case that horrified France.

One, a 13-year-old girl at the time, was convicted of making false accusations. Five others, who had been aged between 14 and 15, were found guilty of criminal conspiracy with intent to cause violence.

Paty, a 47-year-old history teacher, was stabbed and then decapitated near his secondary school in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, by Abdoullakh Anzorov, a radicalised 18-year-old who arrived in France aged six with his Chechen parents and had been granted asylum.

Anzorov, who was later shot dead at the scene by police, killed Paty after messages spread on social media that the teacher had shown his class cartoons of the prophet Muhammad from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

A Republican Guard holds a portrait of Samuel Paty

Paty had used the magazine as part of an ethics class to discuss free speech laws in France. Weeks before the class, Charlie Hebdo had republished the cartoons. The magazine had first published the images in 2012. In 2015 radicalised gunmen stormed its Paris office, killing 11 people inside, and a police officer outside, in coordinated terrorist attacks which also resulted in a second police officer being killed and four hostages murdered at a kosher supermarket.

The girl, who had been seen as central to the events, was found guilty of making false accusations and slanderous comments. She was handed an 18-month suspended prison sentence.

She had wrongly said that Paty had asked Muslim students to identify themselves and leave the classroom before he showed the cartoons. She later told investigators she was not in the classroom that day. Paty had not asked children to leave but said they could turn away if they felt they would be offended by the cartoons shown.

Five of the teenagers on trial, who were aged between 14 and 15 at the time of Paty’s murder, were found guilty of criminal conspiracy with intent to cause violence.

They were found guilty of having helped point out Paty to Anzorov when he asked who the teacher was. They said they never thought it would lead to his murder. Four were given suspended sentences.

One of them, who had initially shown Anzorov who Paty was, was sentenced to six months in prison, which should be possible to serve under electronic surveillance.

Those handed suspended sentences were required to stay in school or jobs during the duration of their suspended terms with regular medical checkups. They left the courtroom without speaking.

The teenagers were tried behind closed doors in juvenile court, without the media present.

Eight adults will face a different trial next year at a special criminal court in the case, including the 13-year-old girl’s father, who is accused of having posted videos on social media that called for mobilisation against the teacher, as well as an activist who is accused of helping him disseminate messages naming Paty.

At the start, Virginie Le Roy, a lawyer representing Paty’s parents and one of his sisters, had said the Paty family saw the trial of the teenagers as crucial.

“The role of the minors was fundamental in the sequence of events that led to his assassination,” Le Roy had told AFP.

Source: The Guardian