Six French teenagers convicted in connection with the beheading of a school teacher | Courts News

The murder of history teacher Samuel Paty shocked France and sparked contentious debates about freedom of expression.

A French court has convicted six teenagers in connection with the 2020 beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty, whose killing shocked the country.

In a decision issued on Friday, the court found five of the six defendants, who were between 14 and 15 years old at the time of the attack, guilty of helping the attacker identify the teacher.

The sixth defendant was convicted of lying about the content of a classroom discussion that angered a teacher who showed students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a discussion on freedom of expression. Most Muslims avoid depictions of prophets, considering them blasphemous.

Paty was killed and beheaded outside a school in a suburb of Paris on October 16, 2020 by an 18-year-old of Chechen origin named Abdullahi Anzorov.

Five of the accused students were accused of monitoring Paty as he left school and directing him towards Anzorov, who was shot and killed by police, in exchange for promises of between 300 and 350 euros ($350-400).

In emotional testimony, the teens protested, saying they did not know Patty would be killed. They face prison sentences of up to two and a half years.

The court convicted the sixth defendant of false accusations and slanderous comments after it was proven that she told her parents that Patty had asked the Muslim students to leave the classroom before showing the cartoons. The court established that she was not in class that day.

The trial, which was held behind closed doors with the media prohibited from revealing the identity of the teenagers due to French laws regarding minors, highlighted discord in French society over topics such as “extremism”, Islamophobia and freedom of expression.

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The ruling comes several weeks after a teacher was stabbed to death in northern France in an attack on the school by a young man.

Muslims and immigrants from the Arab world say they face widespread discrimination and racism in French society, and that the French tradition of keeping religion out of public spaces has been used selectively to suppress expressions of Muslim identity.

Politicians in France, especially from the right wing, often resort to rhetoric that portrays Muslims and Arabs as violent and uncivilized.

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