The Charlie Hebdo trial started in France today with 14 people accused of contributing to the terrorist outbreak that scarred the country more than five years ago.
Police led the defendants to a packed courtroom in Paris where they will answer charges of supplying weapons and financing terrorists – though three of the alleged accomplices, including France’s ‘most wanted woman’, are being tried in absentia and possibly being dead.
The two gunmen, Said and Cherif Kouachi, were killed in a confrontation with police after shooting dead 12 people in Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office in January 2015.
A female police officer and four Jewish shoppers were also murdered in related Islamic attacks in Paris over the following two days.
The satirical magazine reprinted its controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a special commemorative edition, as it swore that ‘we will never lie down’ despite the attacks that killed some of France’s most celebrated artists.
Richard Malka, a lawyer for Charlie Hebdo magazine, arrives today at the Paris courthouse where suspected conspirators of Islamic terror are on trial
There was heavy security out of court in Paris today with armed police securing an entrance when the two-month trial began
In court on Wednesday, security officers wearing balaclavas and body armor took up their position before defendants were brought into the room.
On the eve of the trial, President Emmanuel Macron said France would remember the victims and said freedom from blasphemy was part of the freedom of belief.
“Satire is not a hate speech,” the president told a press conference during a visit to Lebanon.
Macron’s Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote on Twitter today: ‘Always Charlie’.
Those on trial before the French terrorist court in Paris are accused of buying weapons, cars and assistance with logistics.
Prosecutors have dismissed claims that the trial will only target “little helpers” suspected of supplying weapons or providing organizational support.
“These are people involved in the logistics, the preparation of the events, who provided financing, operational equipment, weapons and a home,” prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told France Info-radio Monday.
“All of this is essential to a terrorist operation,” he said, adding that relatives of the 17 victims and others would testify at the trial.
Samia Maktouf, a lawyer for one of the survivors of the attack, said: “They are not second fiddle, they are complete accomplices. You know, if you supply a weapon, you can’t party. ‘
Nevertheless, many of the defendants maintain that they thought they were merely planning an ordinary crime.
Police and emergency vehicles at the scene after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo office shooting in Paris that killed 12 people
Two masked gunmen brandishing Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers attack headquarters of French satricial newspaper Charlie Hebdo
The defendants not in court are Hayat Boumedienne – nicknamed the most wanted woman in France – and brothers Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine, who traveled to ISIS-controlled Syria days before the attacks and may be dead.
Paris-born Boumeddienne, a self-proclaimed ISIS fanatic, is still on the run and was last seen in a Syrian refugee camp last year.
“An arrest warrant has been issued against her,” a prosecutor involved in proceedings before the Special Assize court said on Wednesday.
She is alleged to be dead, but the intelligence agency placed her in the town of Al-Hawl in the summer of 2019.
“The camp consists of thousands of women and children, including many who have been expelled from the ISIS caliphate.”
Mohamed Belhoucine has been accused of being the ideological mentor of one of the attacks after meeting him in prison and opening channels of communication to ISIS for him.
The trial was originally scheduled for last spring, but was delayed by the coronavirus crisis that closed most French courthouses.
Given its historical importance, it will be filmed for the official archives of France, a first for a terror trial. It will run until November 10.
The cover of Charlie Hebdo’s latest issue features a dozen cartoons first published in 2005 that unleashed a storm of anger in the Muslim world.
In the center of the Charlie Hebdo cover is a cartoon of the Prophet drawn by his cartoonist Jean Cabut, known as Cabu, who was killed in the massacre.
“All this, just for that,” says the headline on the front page.
The editorial team wrote that now was the right time to republish the cartoons and said it was “ essential ” for the trial to begin.
“They died so you journalists could do your job,” said Richard Malka, Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer.
‘Let’s not be afraid. Not from terrorism, not from freedom. ‘
The publication received a new condemnation from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, which said the decision to print the cartoons was “deeply insulting.”
“Such a deliberate act to insult the feelings of billions of Muslims cannot be justified,” he said.
A message of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo – with the popular slogan ‘je suis Charlie’ (meaning ‘I am Charlie’) – spread after the 2015 Paris attack
Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly, had long pushed the limits of what society would accept in the name of freedom of speech, including with his depictions of Mohammed.
But the attacks sparked a worldwide outpouring of solidarity with the magazine, symbolized by the slogan “Je suis Charlie,” meaning “I am Charlie.”
The magazine’s first issue after the attack featured a cartoon of a tearful prophet Mohammed holding a ‘Je suis Charlie’ sign under the heading ‘All is forgiven’.
Millions of copies of the so-called ‘survivors’ edition’ were printed, making the usual run of 60,000 insignificant.
Launched their terrorist disaster on January 7, 2015, the attackers first killed maintenance worker Frederic Boisseau before forcing cartoonist Corinne Rey to allow them access to the building.
Within minutes, editor-in-chief Stephane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier and cartoonists Cabut, Bernard Verlhac, Georges Wolinski and Philippe Honore were all dead, as well as economist Bernard Maris, columnist Elsa Cayat, Charb’s bodyguard Franck Brinsolaro, visitor Michel Renaud, and proofreader Mustapha Ourrad.
As they fled, the terrorists heard shouting, “We killed Charlie Hebdo. We retaliated in the interest of the Prophet Muhammad. ‘
Once outside, they opened fire again and killed their 12th victim, police officer Ahmed Merabet, before fleeing to the outskirts of Paris.
While France was still in shock, the attacks continued the next day when Amedy Coulibaly, an acquaintance of Cherif Kouachi, killed a female police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe.
On January 9, Coulibaly killed four Jewish men in a kosher supermarket in east Paris after taking hostages and demanding that the Kouachi brothers go free.
French special forces eventually stormed the Hyper Cacher store, killing Coulibaly and freeing 15 surviving hostages.
The Kouachi brothers were killed by police in a separate standoff at a printing shop where they had taken refuge.
In a video recording, Coulibaly said the attacks were coordinated and carried out in the name of the so-called Islamic State.
However, the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen also said the leadership had ordered the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices.
Later in 2015, a new wave of Islamic attacks killed 130 people in coordinated bombings and shootings at the Bataclan Theater and other locations in Paris.
The following year, a Tunisian who pledged allegiance to ISIS plowed his truck through a crowd in the Mediterranean city of Nice, killing 86 people.