A French juvenile court on Friday convicted six teenagers for their roles in the beheading of a teacher by an Islamic extremist that shocked the country. Teacher Samuel Paty was killed outside his school in 2020 after showing his class cartoons of the prophet of Islam during a debate on free expression. The court found five of the defendants, 14 and 15 at the time of the attack, guilty of staking out the teacher and identifying him for the attacker, per the AP. Another defendant, 13 at the time, was accused of lying about the classroom debate in a comment that aggravated online anger against the teacher. All were handed brief or suspended prison terms. The teenagers had testified they hadn't known the teacher would be killed.
Paty, a history and geography teacher, was killed on Oct. 16, 2020, near his school in a Paris suburb by 18-year-old Abdoullakh Anzorov, a young Chechen who'd been radicalized and who was then shot dead by police. Paty's name was disclosed on social media after a class debate on free expression during which he showed prophet caricatures published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The publication had triggered a deadly extremist massacre in the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in 2015. All those on trial were students at Paty's school. Investigators found that the attacker wanted to target Paty but didn't have the means to identify him. Five of the defendants were accused of staking Paty out until he left school that day and identifying him for the attacker in exchange for promises of about $350 to $400.
Those five faced charges of criminal conspiracy with the aim of preparing aggravated violence. The sixth defendant, who was 13 at the time, was accused of wrongly claiming that Paty had asked Muslim students to raise their hands and leave the classroom before he showed the class the prophet cartoons. She wasn't in the classroom that day and later told investigators she'd lied. She faced a charge of making false allegations. Her father was accused of sharing the lie in an online video that called for mobilization against the teacher. He and a radical Islamic activist who's said to have helped disseminate virulent messages against Paty are among eight adults who will face a separate trial for adults suspected of involvement in the killing, expected late next year.
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In sometimes tearful testimony, the teenagers on trial said they had no idea the teacher would be killed, according to French media reports. The trial had been held behind closed doors, and the media wasn't allowed to disclose the defendants' identities, according to French law regarding minors. The proceedings come weeks after a teacher was fatally stabbed and three other people injured in northern France in October in a school attack by a former student suspected of Islamic radicalization.