A French juvenile court has convicted six teenagers for their role in the beheading of a teacher by an Islamic extremist that shocked the country. Teacher Samuel Paty was murdered outside his school in 2020 after showing his class caricatures of the prophet of Islam during a debate on freedom of expression. The attacker, a young radicalized Chechen, was killed by the police.
The court has found five of the defendants - who were aged 14 and 15 at the time of the attack - guilty of surveilling the teacher and identifying him as the attacker. Another defendant, 13 at the time, was found guilty of lying about classroom debate in a comment that fueled online anger against the teacher.
The teenagers, all students at Paty's school, testified that they did not know that the teacher would be killed. All were given short or suspended prison sentences and were required to remain in school or work for the duration of their suspended sentences with regular medical checks.
The young men left the courtroom without speaking. Some had their heads bowed as they listened to the verdicts. One seemed to wipe away tears.
Paty's name was revealed on social media after a class debate on freedom of expression during which he showed caricatures of prophets published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The publication had sparked a deadly extremist massacre in Charlie Hebdo's newsroom in 2015.
Paty, a history and geography teacher, was murdered on October 16, 2020, near his school in a Paris suburb, by attacker Abdoullakh Anzorov. The five who identified Paty as the attacker were found guilty of participation in a group that prepared aggravated violence. The sixth defendant wrongly claimed that Paty had asked Muslim students to raise their hands and leave the classroom before showing the class the caricatures of the prophet.
The trial took place weeks after a teacher was fatally stabbed and three other people were injured in northern France in October in an attack on a school by a former student suspected of Islamic radicalization. That murder occurred in a context of global tensions over the war between Israel and Hamas and led French authorities to deploy 7,000 additional soldiers throughout the country to reinforce security and surveillance.