Charlie Hebdo attackers killed to avenge Prophet Mohammad, court hears

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A mural in tribute to members of Charlie Hebdo newspaper who were killed on in 2015, allegedly by jihadist gunmen.
A mural in tribute to members of Charlie Hebdo newspaper who were killed on in 2015, allegedly by jihadist gunmen.
Marc Piasecki/Getty Images
  • A court has heard that gunmen who opened fire at staff of Charlie Hebdo did so to avenge Prophet Mohammad.
  • The magazine had printed covers which depicted a drawing of the Prophet.
  • The trial is on in France.


The Islamist gunmen who attacked the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo five years ago, killing 12 people, sought to avenge the Prophet Mohammad, a French court heard on Wednesday on the first day of the trial of more than a dozen alleged accomplices.

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

They paused to ensure then-editor Stephane Charbonnier was among the dead, the presiding judge said in a precis of the prosecution's case. In court, the magazine's editor, Laurent "Riss" Sourisseau, listened, his head bowed and eyes closed.

Al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate praised the Kouachi brothers for "killing those who are among the worst enemies of the Prophet, and of Islam," said Regis de Jorna, the presiding judge.

A third attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a police woman and then four Jewish hostages in a kosher supermarket in a Paris suburb. Like the Kouachis, Coulibaly was killed in a shootout with police.

Darkest

The trial reopens one of modern France's darkest episodes. The attack began three days of bloodshed in Paris and marked the onset of a wave of Islamist violence that killed scores more.

France's anti-terror prosecutor, Jean-Francois Ricard, said this week the absence in the dock of the attackers would bring frustration to the families of those killed and other victims, but that the trial a chance to express pent-up emotion.

Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted: "Always Charlie", evoking the slogan #JeSuisCharlie - I am Charlie - that became a unifying cry after the attacks.

In a rare move, the proceedings, due to last 10 weeks, will be recorded.

Police wearing balaclavas led 11 of the 14 suspects into the courtroom and the defendants told the presiding judge they would answer the court's questions.

Three others are being tried in absentia. Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly's partner at the time of the attacks, and brothers Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine, travelled to areas of Syria under Islamic State's control days before the attacks and may be dead.

The defendants face charges ranging from supplying weapons and logistical help to financing terrorism and membership of a terrorist organisation. No plea is entered under the French legal system.

Charlie Hebdo, which has long tested the limits of what society will accept in the name of free speech, on Wednesday re-printed the cartoons that stirred outrage in the Muslim world when they were first published by a Danish newspaper in 2005.

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