Six teenagers on trial accused of role in beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty

Paty was killed near his school in Paris by an extremist

French history and geography teacher Samuel Paty was killed in 2020. AP
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Six former pupils of a French teacher who was beheaded by an extremist are set to go on trial for the role they allegedly played in his death.

The youngsters, aged 13 to 15 at the time of Samuel Paty's murder, are accused of slander and pointing out the teacher to the killer at the school.

Mr Paty, a history and geography teacher, was killed on October 16, 2020, near his school in a north-western Paris suburb by an 18 year old of Chechen origin who had become radicalised.

The attacker was in turn shot dead by police.

The teacher's name was disclosed on social media following a class debate on free expression during which he showed caricatures published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which triggered a newsroom murder spree by extremists in Paris in January 2015.

The hearing at a Paris juvenile court is to be held behind closed doors in accordance with French law regarding minors.

The accused arrived on Monday morning at the court, their faces hidden behind masks and hoods, accompanied by their families. The media are not allowed to disclose their identity.

Among those on trial is a teenage girl, who was 13 at the time and is accused of making false allegations for wrongly saying that Mr Paty had asked Muslim pupils to raise their hands and leave the classroom before he showed the cartoons.

She later told investigators she had lied. She was not in the classroom that day and Mr Paty did not make such a request, the investigation found.

Five other pupils at Mr Paty's school, then 14 and 15, are facing charges of criminal conspiracy with the aim of preparing aggravated violence to be committed.

They are accused of having waited for the teacher for several hours until he left the school and of having identified him to the killer in exchange for promises of payments of €300-350 ($348-$406).

The investigation established the attacker knew the name of the teacher and the address of his school but did not have the means to identify him.

The lawyer for one of the accused, Antoine Ory, said his client was “tormented by remorse and very much afraid of the confrontation with Mr Paty’s family” in court.

He said the teenager ”obviously didn’t know about the criminal plan" of the killer, Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Moscow-born Chechen refugee.

Mr Ory said his client had since had “difficult” times, changed school and friends and now sees the trial as an opportunity to turn the page.

All six teenagers are facing two and a half years in prison. The trial is scheduled to end on December 8.

Louis Cailliez, the lawyer for Mr Paty’s sister, Mickaelle, said she wants “to understand the real causes” that led the pupils to commit something "irreparable".

He highlighted the "fatal combination of little acts of cowardice, big lies, calumnies, arrangements, complicity and help without which Samuel Paty would still be alive”.

“Without the denunciation, there would be no visibility [on social media], without visibility, there would be no crime,” he said.

Eight other adults are set to stand trial later.

They include the father of the teenage girl charged with false allegations. At the time, he had posted videos on social media that called for mobilisation against the teacher.

The trial comes six weeks after a teacher was fatally stabbed and three others were injured in a school attack by a former pupil suspected of having been radicalised.

Updated: November 27, 2023, 1:33 PM