French court opens case: In a somber turn of events, the trial of six teenagers linked to the beheading of French history teacher Samuel Paty has begun, shrouded in secrecy behind closed doors. The shocking incident unfolded in 2020 when Paty, 47, presented caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.
The assailant, 18-year-old Abdoullakh Anzorov of Chechen origin, carried out the tragic murder outside Paty’s school in a Paris suburb. Anzorov, subsequently shot dead by the police, sparked a nationwide outcry.
The six youths, their identities shielded due to their age, entered the French court on Monday wearing hoodies to obscure their faces. Among them, five were 14 to 15 years old at the time of the incident, facing potential sentences of up to 2.5 years for criminal conspiracy with the intent to cause violence. They stand accused of revealing the teacher’s identity to the assailant in exchange for money.
The sixth defendant, a girl aged 13 during the events, allegedly informed her parents that Paty had requested Muslim students to leave the room before presenting the caricatures. Notably, she was not present in the class at the time.
During questioning, the teenagers expressed deep remorse, asserting that they never envisioned the consequences escalating to murder. Antoine Ory, the lawyer for one of the accused, highlighted his client’s profound regret and fear of facing Paty’s family.
Paty’s sister, Mickaelle, conveyed through lawyer Louis Cailliez that her brother’s life could have been spared without the “fatal association of small cowardices, big lies.” The family’s lawyer emphasized the fundamental role played by the minors in the sequence of events leading to Paty’s tragic assassination.
The closed-door hearings, scheduled until December 8, add a layer of privacy to the proceedings. Simultaneously, eight adults implicated in the case will face trial before a special criminal French court.
Tragically, the trial occurs almost two years after Paty’s death, and it’s a painful reminder of the vulnerability of educators. In a disturbing parallel, last month, on the anniversary of Paty’s killing, a 20-year-old man, Mohammed Moguchkov, fatally stabbed teacher Dominique Bernard in a school in northern France. Like Anzorov, Moguchkov hailed from Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus region, underlining the persisting challenges surrounding such acts of violence in the educational sphere.