2 students facing possible charges over teacher's beheading

CBSNews
·4 min read

France will pay tribute Wednesday to a history teacher beheaded for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a free speech lesson in a gruesome attack that has shocked the country and prompted a government crackdown on radical Islam. Seven people, including two students, will appear before an anti-terror judge for a decision on criminal charges over the killing of 47-year-old history teacher Samuel Paty on Friday.

File photo of teacher Samuel Paty.  / Credit: Twitter via Abaca/Sipa USA/AP Images
File photo of teacher Samuel Paty. / Credit: Twitter via Abaca/Sipa USA/AP Images

Paty was attacked shortly after leaving the junior high school where he taught in the suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine outside Paris.

He had been the subject of an online hate campaign after he showed pupils cartoons of the prophet in a civics class — the same images that sparked a deadly assault on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo five years ago.

A photo of Paty and a message claiming responsibility for his murder were found on the cellphone of his killer, 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, originally from the Russian region of Chechnya.

Anzorov tweeted images of the teacher's decapitated body before he was shot dead by police.

France's counter-terrorism prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, said the two minors, aged 14 and 15, were students at the junior high school, who were approached there by Anzorov just hours before the killing. The two accepted $400 from Anzorov to point out the teacher.

Ricard said Anzorov told the students he wanted to film the teacher and force him to apologize. He said he wanted to "humiliate" him and hit him. The two face charges of being accomplices to murder.

Three others facing terrorist charges were friends of Anzorov, one accused of accompanying him to buy the murder weapon and a gun, and another who drove him. They told investigators they had no idea of his deadly plans. Ricard said the three had been radicalized in recent months, changing their appearance and attending mosque more frequently.

Police have carried out dozens of raids since the killing, while the government has ordered the six-month closure of a mosque outside Paris and plans to dissolve a group it said supported Palestinian militant group Hamas.

"Our fellow citizens expect actions," President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday evening, Macron was to attend an official memorial with Paty's family and some 400 guests at the Sorbonne university in Paris, where he will posthumously award the teacher France's highest order of merit, the Legion d'Honneur.

A girl holds a banner with a picture of Samuel Paty, the French teacher who was beheaded on the streets of the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine, during a tribute at the Place de la Republique, in Lille, France, October 18, 2020. / Credit: PASCAL ROSSIGNOL / REUTERS
A girl holds a banner with a picture of Samuel Paty, the French teacher who was beheaded on the streets of the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine, during a tribute at the Place de la Republique, in Lille, France, October 18, 2020. / Credit: PASCAL ROSSIGNOL / REUTERS

Nine of 16 people detained over the murder were released from custody late Tuesday, including four members of Anzorov's family and three school pupils.

Among those due to appear Wednesday was a disgruntled parent from Paty's school, who had fired up anger about his lesson through messages on social media, urging "mobilization" against the teacher.

The parent, named only as Brahim C., had exchanged messages with Anzorov via WhatsApp in the days leading up to the murder.

The material he uploaded was widely shared, including by a mosque in the northern Paris suburb of Pantin, which the government intends to close for six months for spreading material likely to provoke "hatred and violence."

Macron has also announced that a pro-Hamas group called the Sheikh Yassin Collective would be dissolved for being "directly implicated" in the murder.

The group's founder, Islamist radical Abdelhakim Sefrioui, is among those in custody over the murder. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has accused him and the school parent of having issued a "fatwa" against Paty.

Hamas said in a statement Wednesday it had "no links" to the collective and Sefrioui had no "organizational relationship" with the Palestinian movement.

The French government has earmarked another 50-odd other organizations with links to "radical Islam" for dissolution.

On Tuesday, in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Macron asked Moscow for stronger cooperation in the fight against terror.

Russia has rejected any association with the killer.

Putin offered Macron his condolences over the "barbaric murder," according to the Kremlin, and the two leaders "reaffirmed their mutual interest in intensifying joint efforts to combat terrorism and the spread of extremist ideology."

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has vowed there would be "not a minute's respite for enemies of the Republic" in the wake of Paty's murder.

Paty's beheading was the second knife attack in the name of avenging the Prophet Muhammad since a trial started last month over the Charlie Hebdo killings in 2015, when 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down.

The teacher's killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion and solidarity in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies countrywide over the weekend.

Thousands more took part in a silent march in the teacher's honor in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Tuesday.

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