Paris teacher's beheading: Two pupils among seven investigated for suspected complicity in murder

David Chazan
·3-min read
French President Emmanuel Macron paid his respects  - Francois Mori/Pool via REUTERS
French President Emmanuel Macron paid his respects - Francois Mori/Pool via REUTERS

Two schoolchildren are among seven people who will appear before a judge to face possible charges over the beheading of a teacher who showed his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said on Wednesday.

The announcement came hours before the nation paid tribute to Samuel Paty, who was decapitated outside his school on Friday, in a solemn ceremony at the Sorbonne University. Emmanuel Macron, the president, awarded him the Légion d’honneur posthumously.

We will not give up cartoons," Mr Macron told the ceremony, attended by the family of the murdered teacher. Mr Macron said Paty was killed "because he incarnated the Republic."

He added: "He was killed because Islamists want our future... they will never have it."

Watch: Samuel Paty murder - French opinion divided over government response to Islamic terrorism

The killing has stunned France and prompted a clampdown on Islamist militants. A Paris mosque has been closed for six months and a group that supported the Palestinian group Hamas has been banned.

Jean-François Ricard, the prosecutor, said the suspects, including two pupils aged 14 and 15, could be charged as accomplices in a terrorist murder or for association with terrorists.

He said Abdoullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, had offered the students €300 to €350 to point out Samuel Paty, the teacher, before killing him.

Anzorov told them he wanted “to film the teacher, force him to apologise for the caricature of the prophet, humiliate him and hit him,” Mr Ricard said.

The prosecutor said the killer knew the teacher’s name and the school’s location from a social media campaign against Mr Paty, but had no way of identifying him at the school gates.

People gather to pay their respects to the late teacher Samuel Paty -  YOAN VALAT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People gather to pay their respects to the late teacher Samuel Paty - YOAN VALAT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“This identification was only possible with the help of the pupils,” he said. Three friends of Anzorov, who was shot dead by police, also face potential charges.

One, aged 19, “is suspected of having accompanied him the day before the crime to buy a knife”, the prosecutor said. Another, aged 18, has admitted driving him to the school, Mr Ricard said.

The third, also 18, was close to the killer and “manifestly shared his radical ideology”, he said.

The remaining suspects are the father of a pupil at the school and an Islamist militant. The parent, Brahim Chnina, launched the online campaign against Mr Paty.

The militant, Abdelhakim Sefrioui, described the teacher as a “thug” in social media posts. The prosecutor said a “direct link of causality” had been established between their actions and the murder.

The killer and Mr Chnina exchanged WhatsApp messages and phone calls in the days before the beheading, Mr Ricard confirmed. The murder has escalated tensions in France and several mosques have been placed under police protection after receiving threats.

Watch: Hero of the Republic - France honours murdered schoolteacher