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Rabu, 16 Desember 2020

French court convicts accomplices to Charlie Hebdo, supermarket attacks - ABC News

A French court has convicted 14 people of crimes ranging from financing terrorism to membership of a criminal gang in relation to the Islamist attack on the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.

The trial has reopened one of modern France's darkest episodes, just as the country is hit with another wave of Islamist attacks, including the beheading of a schoolteacher that prompted the Government to crack down on what it calls Islamist separatism.

Brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris, spraying gunfire and killing 12, on January 7, 2015, nearly a decade after the weekly published cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

A third attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a policewoman and then four Jewish hostages in a kosher supermarket in a Paris suburb.

Like the Kouachis, Coulibaly was killed in a shootout with police.

Among the 14 accomplices sentenced on Wednesday was Hayat Boumeddiene, the former partner of Coulibaly and one of three defendants tried in absentia.

Two children sit beside flowers and candles on the street
Following the attack, flowers, drawings and messages of support were left in the streets around the Charlie Hebdo office.(ABC News: Barbara Miller)

Believed to be still alive and in Syria on the run from an international arrest warrant, Boumeddiene was referred to by prosecutors as an "Islamic State princess".

The judges convicted Boumeddiene, 32, of financing terrorism and belonging to a criminal terrorist network, and sentenced her to 30 years in jail.

The two men who spirited her out of France, who were also tried in absentia, are thought to be dead, although one received a sentence of life in prison just in case.

Eleven others were present and all were convicted of crimes, with sentences ranging from 30 years for Ali Riza Polat, described as the lieutenant of the virulently anti-Semitic market attacker, while Amedy Coulibaly was jailed for four years.

The verdict ends the trial linked to killings across Paris claimed jointly by the Islamic State group and Al Qaeda.

Polat's lawyer has already confirmed he will appeal against his sentence.

'This is not Islam,' Charlie Hebdo lawyer says

Protests in Islamabad against Charlie Hebdo
When they were first published, the cartoons unleashed a wave of anger in the Muslim world.(Reuters: Faisal Mahmood)

The attacks laid bare France's struggle to counter the threat of both militants brought up in the country and of foreign jihadists.

"The fact of choosing victims precisely because they were journalists, or a member of the security forces, or of Jewish faith, clearly demonstrates in itself their desire to sow terror in Western countries," the presiding judge told the court.

Terrorism-related charges were dropped for six of the defendants who were found guilty of lesser crimes.

Journalists from Charlie Hebdo testified during the trial.

After Wednesday's ruling, the magazine's lawyer, Richard Malka, described the defendants as part of a nebulous support network that enabled the attackers to spill blood.

"Without these nebulous networks, attacks cannot occur," he said.

Mr Malka said he hoped the verdict was a beginning of "an awareness, an awakening, a desire to act as citizens against a danger that kills and wants to impose fear and terror".

A man in a suit smiles as he talks to a large pack of media that has surrounded him while holding mics and cameras.
Charlie Hebdo's lawyer Richard Malka gave the magazine's first comments following the convictions.(AP: Michel Euler)

"This is the end of something today," he said.

"This is the end of a trial that's been crazy, illuminating, painful but which has been useful.

"I hope it's also the beginning of something else, a realisation of the will to act that we felt during this trial, a will of citizens to say that we must fight against fascism. And this fascism, it's Islamism. This is not Islam. It is a distortion of Islam but this is not Islam."

On the eve of the trial's opening, Charlie Hebdo, which has long tested the limits of what society will accept in the name of free speech, reprinted the cartoons that had stirred outrage in the Muslim world when they were first published by a Danish paper in 2005.

A month later, history teacher Samuel Paty was decapitated by a teenage Islamist who said in a recorded message that he was avenging Mr Paty's use of the cartoons in a class on civil liberties.

ABC/Wires

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2020-12-17 00:11:00Z
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