The first trial in the case of the 2020 beheading of teacher Samuel Paty by a young jihadist opens on Monday 27 November in Paris. Six former high school students are appearing behind closed doors in juvenile court.

A second trial, to try eight adults, will take place before the Special Assize Court of Paris at the end of 2024.

The attack, which took place against a backdrop of a high terrorist threat, caused a huge stir in France and abroad. On October 16, 2020, the 47-year-old history and geography teacher was stabbed and then beheaded near his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Paris region) by Abdullakh Anzorov, a Russian refugee of Chechen origin. The 18-year-old radicalized Islamist was killed by police in the aftermath.

He accused the professor of showing cartoons of Muhammad during a lecture on freedom of expression. In an audio message in Russian, he congratulated himself on having "avenged the Prophet."

Five teenagers – aged 14 and 15 at the time of Samuel Paty's murder – are on trial for criminal conspiracy to prepare aggravated violence. They are accused of having guarded the surroundings of the college and pointed out Samuel Paty to the assailant, in return for payment.

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A sixth teenage girl, who was 13 years old at the time of the incident, is on trial for slanderous denunciation. The schoolgirl had falsely claimed that Samuel Paty had asked the Muslim students in the class to report themselves and leave the classroom before showing the cartoons of Muhammad. She hadn't actually attended that class.

His lie sparked a violent campaign on social media by his father, Brahim Chnina, and an Islamist activist, Abdelhakim Sefrioui, who made videos that drew attention to the professor. Both men will be tried in the second trial.

The "essential" role of minors

For Samuel Paty's family, this first trial, "fundamental", is eagerly awaited. "The role of minors is essential in the spiral that led to the murder" of the teacher, said Virginie Le Roy, who represents his parents and one of his sisters.

The investigation had traced how, in ten days, the trap had closed on Samuel Paty: from the schoolgirl's lie to the online attacks, until the arrival of the assailant in front of the school on October 16.

"Hey little one, come and see, I have something to offer you," Abdoullakh Anzorov said to a teenager, offering him 300 euros to identify Samuel Paty, whom the assailant said he wanted to "film apologizing."

The middle school student "brags" and relays the proposal, not "feeling like doing it alone." Four others joined him, according to testimonies cited in the investigating judges' order seen by AFP.

Some go back and forth between the school and Anzorov's "hideout", monitor, or film themselves with tickets.

The assailant asked one of them to call the teenager who had started the case. She repeats her lie, without knowing that he was listening, she will assure.

During hearings where they broke down in tears, the students swore that they had imagined that the teacher would at most be "posted on the networks", perhaps "humiliated", "hit"... but that "never" it would go "to the death".

At the end of the school day, Samuel Paty is pointed out by the teenagers: "He's here". He was murdered shortly before 17 p.m.

Paty's former colleagues want to file civil lawsuits

Samuel Paty's ex-girlfriend "will send a letter to the president" but will not attend the hearing, said Francis Szpiner, who is defending her and their son.

The teenagers are now high school students. They face two and a half years in prison. "It's complicated," said Dylan Slama, a lawyer for one of them. "For the rest of his life, he'll be this kid involved in this."

Read alsoSamuel Paty's death: teachers' protection strengthened, but still poorly applied

A dozen teachers who are colleagues of Samuel Paty intend to file civil suits at the opening of the trial, in "support" of the family, according to their lawyer Antoine Casubolo-Ferro.

A "belated approach" that "does not understand at all" Mickaëlle Paty, another sister of the professor, who believes that "their support for their colleague was far from obvious", according to his lawyer, Louis Cailliez.

The trial is scheduled to last until Dec. 8.

With AFP

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