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9 Dec, 2023 18:50

French teenagers sentenced over teacher beheading

None of the teens involved in the murder of Samuel Paty will see the inside of a jail cell
French teenagers sentenced over teacher beheading

Six teenagers have been convicted for their role in the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty in 2020. Paty was beheaded by a Muslim refugee who took offense to his depiction of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson on free speech.

Paty, a history and geography teacher, was stabbed to death and beheaded near his school in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in 2020. His killer, an 18-year-old Chechen who arrived in France with his family as an asylum seeker aged six, was shot dead by police at the scene.

Prior to his murder, Paty had shown students images of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed during a lesson on blasphemy and free speech law.

After a closed-doors trial in a juvenile court, the six teens were sentenced on Friday. Five of the youths, who were aged between 14 and 15 at the time of the murder and helped the killer identify Paty, were found guilty of criminal conspiracy with intent to cause violence. 

A female student who was aged 13 at the time was found guilty of making false statements. She had claimed that Paty ordered Muslim students to identify themselves before the lesson, however, it later emerged that she was not present in the classroom, and that Paty had informed Muslim students that they could leave the room if they did not wish to see the offensive images.

None of the six will serve any jail time. The girl was handed an 18-month suspended sentence, while four of the others were given suspended sentences of between 14 and 18 months, and one was sentenced to six months in prison, which he will be able to serve at home wearing an electronic monitor.

Lawyers for Paty’s family condemned the sentences as unduly lenient. “A man beheaded in the street is not nothing,” lawyer Virginie Le Roy told reporters, adding that the family felt “anger," “disappointment” and “incomprehension” at the verdicts. “The role of the minors was fundamental in the sequence of events that led to his assassination,” she said.

Eight adults will face a separate trial next year over their alleged role in the murder. One of them, the 13-year-old girl’s father, is accused of posting videos on social media calling for mob violence against Paty.

Muslims, many from France’s former colonies in North Africa, make up around 10% of the French population. The government has struggled to integrate this sizable minority, and incidents of extreme violence by radical Islamists are not uncommon. In the past two months alone, a man shouted “Allahu Akbar” before stabbing three people in Paris, a woman was shot by police for threatening to blow herself up on a train in the capital, and a teacher was stabbed to death by an ethnic Chechen in the city of Arras.