6 Teens Convicted in Beheading of French Teacher Accused of Blasphemy

More than three years after a French secondary school teacher was killed and beheaded by a Chechen Muslim refugee for showing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad during a class, a court in France has convicted six teenagers connected with the 2020 murder of Samuel Paty.

The court ruled last December 8th that five of the six teenagers, aged 14 through 15 at the time of the attack, were guilty of helping the attacker identify the teacher. The sixth defendant was found guilty of lying about the content of a classroom debate that sparked anger at the teacher, who had shown students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a lesson about free expression. Most Muslims consider any depiction of prophets, especially that of the Prophet Muhammad, as blasphemous.

Samuel Paty, who was 47 at the time of the incident, was a history and geography teacher who was murdered and decapitated outside of a school in a Paris suburb on October 16, 2020, by 18-year-old Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Chechen refugee who arrived in France as a six-year-old boy.

Five of the defendant students were accused of staking out Paty as he left the school and pointing him out for Anzorov, who was shot and killed by police, in exchange for promises of 300-350 Euros (around 350 to 400 US dollars).

In their emotional testimonies, the teenagers protested and insisted that they didn’t know that Paty would be murdered. They could face prison sentences of up to two and a half years. 

The court also found the sixth defendant guilty of false accusations and slanderous comments after it was established that she told her parents that Paty asked Muslim students to leave the classroom before he showed the cartoons. The court confirmed that she was absent when Paty showed the caricatures during class. 

The trial was held behind closed doors, and media outlets were not allowed to share the identities of the teenagers because of French laws regarding minors. The trial also sparked discussion in France over topics such as Islamic extremism, anti-Muslim discrimination, and freedom of expression.

The court decision also came several weeks after another teacher was fatally stabbed in a school attack in northern France by a young man. It also came after a 26-year-old French man stabbed and killed a German tourist and injured a British and a French man in Paris near the Eiffel Tower.

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