Fourteen people convicted in Charlie Hebdo trial for terrorist attack

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PARIS – A French court on Wednesday convicted 14 people for helping carry out the 2015 terrorist attacks against satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store, as France sought to close one of the most painful chapters of its modern history.

The three-day shooting that killed 17 people in January 2015 marked the start of a series of terrorist attacks that would claim hundreds of lives in the years to come and reshape daily life in France. The three gunmen who mounted the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the grocer died in clashes with police at the time.

On Wednesday, Parisian judges handed down prison sentences against a network of people responsible for helping men. Three people were sentenced in absentia, including Hayat Boumeddiene, who married one of the armed men in a religious ceremony before the attacks.
She was sentenced to 30 years in prison for belonging to a terrorist organization and financing terrorism. Ms Boumeddiene, whom prosecutors called the “princess of the Islamic State,” fled to Syria days before the attacks. She is on the run against an international arrest warrant.

Ali Riza Polat, a 35-year-old Franco-Turk, was sentenced to life in prison for aiding and abetting Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who attacked the grocery store.

“The judges must not absorb a certain frustration at not having been able to prosecute the real perpetrators of the attacks and transfer all these frustrations to Mr. Polat”, declared Antoine Van Rie, lawyer for Mr. Polat. He said he would appeal the verdict.

Three other suspects were convicted of terrorism. Seven other defendants were convicted of minor crimes, such as membership in a criminal enterprise.

“We do not want to live under the yoke of dogma,” Charlie Hebdo lawyer Richard Malka said at the Paris courthouse on Wednesday.

Photo:
martin bureau / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

The scars of the attack on Charlie Hebdo continue to weigh heavily in France. The assailants targeted the newspaper after publishing cartoons insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The massacre in his newsroom transformed Charlie Hebdo into a symbol of free speech and was followed by a surge of solidarity as people around the world embraced the rallying cry “Je suis Charlie” or “Je suis Charlie”. Charlie ”.

As the trial began, Charlie Hebdo reposted the cartoons, rekindling the anger of Muslims who view the depictions of Muhammad as blasphemous. Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old middle school teacher, was beheaded in a terrorist attack after showing some of the cartoons to his class as part of a lesson on free speech.

“We don’t want to live under the yoke of dogma. We want to remain free, ”Charlie Hebdo lawyer Richard Malka said.

The verdict came amid a government campaign against radical Islam that some Muslim leaders and human rights organizations say risks stigmatizing France’s Muslim community, one of the largest in Europe.

The government has stepped up its efforts following the attack on the teacher and the murder of three people inside a basilica in Nice this fall. In recent weeks, authorities have closed dozens of mosques, religious associations and schools, and launched surveys in dozens more.

The government also proposed legislation earlier this month to ban “Islamist separatism,” which the government defines as a wide range of activities, from inappropriate home schooling to online hate speech, which aims to build a parallel society where religious rules prevail over civil rules.

The trial, which opened in September, was suspended for about a month in November after three of the defendants contracted the coronavirus.

In this photo of January 7, 2015, firefighters carry an injured man in front of the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris after the attack on his editorial staff.

Photo:
philippe dupeyrat / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

The attack on Charlie Hebdo began on January 7, 2015, when Chérif and Said Kouachi stormed Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office wielding AK-47 rifles. After shooting a receptionist, the two brothers reached the second floor, where reporters and cartoonists held their weekly editorial meeting. In a flurry of gunfire, they killed eight staff, a guest and a police officer serving as the magazine’s editor-in-chief.

“We avenged Prophet Muhammad. We killed Charlie Hebdo, ”they shouted as they fled.

They encountered several police patrols, killing a policeman.

A day later, a third gunman, Mr. Coulibaly, shot and killed a policewoman in a street in Montrouge, in the Paris suburbs.

The next day, the police cornered the Kouachi brothers in a printing press northeast of Paris.

As the police surrounded the establishment, Mr. Coulibaly took hostages inside a grocery store, threatening to kill them if the Kouachi brothers were injured. He killed four people at the store.

The three gunmen were killed in simultaneous raids hours later. ISIS released a video days later calling Mr. Coulibaly its soldier.

The al-Qaeda branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on the magazine.

Days after the attack, world leaders converged on Paris, arm in arm, as millions of French people mounted a national march to demonstrate their unity against the terrorist attacks.

Write to Noemie Bisserbe at [email protected]

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