PARIS, FRANCE – A group of six teenagers are set to face the French justice system, accused of complicity in the shocking 2020 decapitation of schoolteacher Samuel Paty. The incident, believed to have been carried out by an Islamist extremist, sent tremors through France, shaking its foundational secular values.
Paty had used Prophet Mohammad cartoons in a lesson about freedom of expression, an act seen as blasphemous by many in the Muslim community who consider any portrayal of the Prophet sacrilegious. This sparked anger among several Muslim parents.
One of the defendants, a 15-year-old girl, allegedly reported to her parents about Paty’s use of the Prophet’s caricatures. However, she now faces charges of false accusation as she was found not to have been in class during the incident.
Paty, aged 47, was brutally slain outside his school in a Parisian suburb by an 18-year-old of Chechen descent, who was later neutralized by the police.
The other five defendants, who were aged 14 and 15 at the time of the incident, are facing charges of premeditated criminal conspiracy or ambush. They are suspected of having singled out Paty as the killer or helped track his movements post-school.
All six youngsters have been referred to a juvenile court and could serve up to 2.5 years in prison. The trial, expected to last until December 8, will be in-camera.
Eight adults are also implicated in the case and will be tried in a special criminal court. France, which hosts Europe’s most significant Muslim minority, has witnessed a series of attacks by Islamist militants or their sympathizers over the years.
In the aftermath of Paty’s death, some teachers confessed to practicing self-censorship to evade potential disputes with students and parents over religious and freedom of speech matters.