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6 teens convicted over their roles in teacher’s beheading in France

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

Samuel Paty was killed outside his school in 2020 after showing his class cartoons of the prophet of Islam during a debate on free expression. The attacker, a young Chechen who had radicalized, was killed by police.

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

The teenagers —all students at Paty’s school— testified that they didn’t know the teacher would be killed. All were handed brief or suspended prison terms, and required to stay in school or jobs during the duration of their suspended terms with regular checkups.

They left the courtroom without speaking. Some had their heads down as they listened to the verdicts. One appeared to wipe tears.

Paty’s name was disclosed on social media after a class debate on free expression during which he showed caricatures published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The publication of the caricatures led to a deadly extremist massacre in the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in 2015.

Paty, a history and geography teacher, was killed on Oct. 16, 2020, near his school in a Paris suburb by attacker Abdoullakh Anzorov.

The five who identified Paty to the attacker were convicted of involvement in a group preparing aggravated violence.

The five suspects in the case allegedly helped Anzorov identify Paty at the school in exchange for a payment of 300 euros, the BBC reported. One of the suspects said Anzorov told him that he wanted to film Paty apologizing for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The sixth defendant wrongly claimed that Paty had asked Muslim students to raise their hands and leave the classroom before he showed the class the prophet cartoons. She was not in the classroom that day, and later told investigators she had lied. She was convicted of making false allegations.

Her father shared the lie in an online video that called for mobilization against the teacher. He and a radical Islamic activist who helped disseminate virulent messages against Paty are among eight people who will face a separate trial for adults suspected of involvement in the killing. The trial is expected to start late next year.

Prosecutors have accused two friends of Anzorov of “complicity in a terrorist murder,” the BBC reported. One man is accused of accompanying Anzorov to buy weapons, and the other of driving him to the school where Paty taught on the day of the murder.

The students’ trial was held behind closed doors, and the news media are not allowed to disclose the defendants’ identities, according to French law regarding minors. Local media reported that when the trial started last month, the defendants hid their identities as they arrived at the juvenile court.

The proceedings come weeks after a teacher was fatally stabbed and three other people injured in northern France in a school attack by a former student suspected of Islamic radicalization. The October attack occurred in a context of global tensions over the Israel-Hamas war and led French authorities to deploy 7,000 additional soldiers across the country to bolster security.

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