A French anti-terrorist police detained on Tuesday seven people suspected of having communicated via social media with the killer of teacher Samuel Paty, whose beheading last year resumed the debate on France’s cherished freedom of speech, a judicial official said.
Paty, 47, was killed on October 16 outside his school in the Paris region after showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed during a class debate on free speech.
His killer, identified by authorities as Abdoullakh Anzorov, was later shot by police. Anzorov, an 18-year-old refugee of Chechen origin who, according to the authorities, had been radicalized, claimed responsibility for the murder in a text found on his phone, which was accompanied by a photograph of the teacher.
The seven people arrested on Tuesday in the Paris region, as well as in western France and in the cities of Lyon and Toulouse, are suspected of having contacts between Anzorov, the legal official said. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the details of the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The suspects can be held for the first interrogation by anti-terrorism investigators for up to 96 hours.
A total of 14 people have already been formally investigated and are facing preliminary charges of terrorism and murder in the investigation. Of these, seven have not been granted bail.
Streaming of outrage
Pity’s assassination sparked a furious outcry that led President Emmanuel Macron to crack down on Islamist extremism and violence in a country ruled by a wave of jihadist attacks since 2015 that has killed more than 250 people.
Seventeen people were killed during three days of attacks in January 2015, beginning with the massacre of 12 people in the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The attack was followed by the killing of a French policewoman and a hostage-taking in a Jewish supermarket where four more people were killed.
Later that year, on November 13, 2015, a group of jihadist assassins carried out France’s deadliest atrocity in peacetime, attacking the Stade de France stadium, bars and restaurants in central Paris and the Bataclan Concert Hall, killing 130 people.
In September 2020, three weeks into the trial of suspected accomplices in the Charlie Hebdo attack, two people outside the satirical week’s earlier office were attacked by a man who had a meat slicer. Less than two weeks after Petty’s murder, three people were killed when a young Tunisian who had recently arrived in Europe stabbed a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
Less than two weeks after Petty’s murder, three people were killed when a young Tunisian who had recently arrived in Europe stabbed a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
In response to Paty’s assassination, Macron promised that France would never give up the values of the Enlightenment as the right to be blasphemed. He hailed the murdered teacher as a “hero” for representing the secular, free-thinking values of the French Republic.
“He was killed because Islamists want to take our future,” Macron said at a memorial service for Paty. “They will never have it.”
France has a long tradition of caricatures that take on political and religious authorities – including Charlie Hebdo’s scornful mockery of Catholicism and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally Party (formerly the National Front).
On December 9, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a new bill to address the root causes of terrorism. He stressed that the text is not aimed at religious freedom but focuses on “the unpleasant ideology of radical Islamism”.
Castex described the proposed bill as “a law on freedom, protection and liberation from religious fundamentalism”.
The proposed legislation would make it easier to prevent mosques from obtaining foreign funding, and would also offer protection to moderate community leaders at risk of being overthrown by an extremist “coup”.
The bill also proposes stricter criteria for allowing homeschooling for children over the age of three to prevent parents from taking their children out of public schools and enrolling them in underground Islamist structures.
Doctors would meanwhile be fined or jailed if they perform a virginity test on girls.
The new law would also prohibit authorities from issuing residence permits to polygamous applicants.
“With what has happened in France in recent years and recently, the government just can not sit back and let this happen; it must take some radical measures to prevent this from continuing and getting worse, says JowharInternational Affairs Editor Philip Turle.
( Jowharwith AP and AFP and REUTERS)