French terror attack magazine Charlie Hebdo republishes offensive cartoons

The republication marks the start of the trial of alleged accomplices of the attackers

Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine targeted by terrorists in 2015, has republished offensive cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed to mark the start of the trial of the alleged accomplices in the attack.

Their republication comes as French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the terror threat “remains extremely high in the country” and promised to fight extremism “without let-up”.

Some 8,132 individuals have been added to a database of suspected radical Islamists considered a possible security threat, he said during a visit to France’s internal security service the DGSI.

Twelve people, including some of France's most celebrated cartoonists, were killed on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi carried out the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.

The cover of the latest issue of the weekly newspaper shows a dozen cartoons first published by the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in 2005 – and then reprinted by Charlie Hebdo in 2006 – which unleashed a storm of anger across the Muslim world.

(FILES) This file photo taken on January 7, 2015 shows a general view of firefighters, police officers and forensics gathered in front of the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, after the brothers Kouachi stormed the offices leaving twelve dead.  The trial of the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Montrouge and Hyper Cacher will take place from September 2 to November 10, 2020 in Paris. / AFP / Martin BUREAU

In the centre of the cover is a cartoon by Jean Cabut, known as Cabu, who was killed in the attack. "All of this, just for that," the front-page headline says.

Its editorial team wrote that they felt it was "essential" to republish the cartoons as the trial opens and had refused to do so previously as they needed "a reason which has meaning".

French Council for the Muslim Faith wrote on Twitter in response to the republication that, "The freedom to caricature and the freedom to dislike them are enshrined and nothing justifies violence."

Polarising public opinion

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2015 file photo, flowers lay outside Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris. The January 2015 attacks against Charlie Hebdo and, two days later, a kosher supermarket, touched off a wave of killings claimed by the Islamic State group across Europe. Seventeen people died along with the three attackers. Thirteen men and a woman accused of providing the attackers with weapons and logistics go on trial on terrorism charges Wednesday Sept. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)

The newspaper’s willingness to cause offence has made it a champion of free speech to many in France, while others believed it crossed a line too often.

Its Paris offices were firebombed in 2011, and its editorial leadership placed under police protection which remains in place to this day.

Fourteen alleged accomplices in the Charlie Hebdo attack are due to go on trial in Paris on Wednesday.

All of the perpetrators were killed in the aftermath of the attack which marked the start of a year of extremist violence in France, and prosecutors insist the trial will be a watershed moment in the country’s efforts to counter extremism.

Former French president Francois Hollande on Sunday maintained that extremists had failed to divide the country’s population.

Mr Hollande, who was president at the time, said they "failed" in their bid to stoke religious or racial hatred because the population's reaction "was remarkable".

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