France vows 'won't give up cartoons' as teens charged over teacher's killing

Two teenagers accused of pointing out French teacher Samuel Paty to his killer who beheaded him were on Wednesday, October 21, charged with complicity in terrorist murder, prosecutors said, as the nation paid homage to the slain educator.

"We will not give up cartoons," President Emmanuel Macron earlier told a solemn ceremony at the Sorbonne university in Paris attended by Paty's family, who was targeted for having shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed in a civics class discussion on free speech early this month.

The president gave France's highest civilian award, the Legion of Honor, to Paty and said he had been slain by "cowards" for representing the secular, democratic values of the French Republic.

"He was killed because Islamists want our future," Macron said. "They will never have it."

Earlier Wednesday anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said the two teenagers – aged 14 and 15 – had been in a group of pupils who shared 300-350 euros ($356-$414) offered by the killer to help find Paty.

The two stayed with the killer, Chechnya-born 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, for more than two hours waiting for Paty even after he told them he wanted to "humiliate and strike" him over the Mohamed caricatures, seen as offensive by many Muslims, Ricard said.

Anzorov then killed Paty as he made his way home on foot from the junior high school where he taught in the suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine outside Paris.

The pair are among 7 people authorities have charged over the killing.

The parent of one of Paty's pupils, who started the social media campaign against the teacher even though his daughter was not in class when the cartoons were shown, was also charged with the same offence as the two teenagers, the national anti-terrorist prosecutor's office said late on Wednesday.

Also charged was a known Islamist radical who helped the father in his campaign.

Paty, 47, became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material – the same images which unleashed a bloody assault by Islamist gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

A trial opened in Paris last month for complicity in that attack, which claimed the lives of 12 people including cartoonists.

'Fatwa'

Anzorov decapitated Paty with a long knife and tweeted an image of the teacher's severed head on Twitter before he was shot dead by police. Many of Paty's pupils saw the disturbing image online.

The father of the pupil had exchanged messages with Anzorov via WhatsApp in the days leading up to the murder.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has accused the father and the Islamist radical of having issued a "fatwa" against Paty.

The other 3 facing prosecution are friends of Anzorov, one of whom allegedly drove him to the scene of the crime while another accompanied him to purchase a weapon.

Two of them also face a complicity in terrorist murder charge while the third was charged with a lesser offence, the anti-terrorist prosecutor's office said.

Police have carried out dozens of raids since the crime, while the government has ordered the six-month closure of a mosque outside Paris and dissolved the Sheikh Yassin Collective, a group they said supported Hamas.

The Palestinian militant group said on Wednesday it had "no links" with the French organization founded by Abdelhakim Sefrioui – the Islamist radical in custody over Paty's murder.

The French government has earmarked for dissolution more than 50 other organizations it accuses of having links to radical Islam.

"Our fellow citizens expect actions," Macron said on Tuesday, promising that the government will intensify a crackdown on radical Islam.

French solidarity

Paty's beheading was the second knife attack in the name of avenging the Prophet Mohammed since the Charlie Hebdo trial started last month.

The killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion and solidarity in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies countrywide over the weekend.

Thousands more took part in a silent march in the teacher's honour in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Tuesday.

France's sports ministry said on Wednesday that participants in all professional sporting events this weekend – football, basketball, handball, rugby, ice hockey, and volleyball – would observe a pre-match minute of silence for Paty, and wear black armbands for matches scheduled for next week. – Rappler.com