PARIS: On Wednesday, a French court accused 14 individuals of offences ranging from militant funding to illegal gang membership in connection with the 2015 attacks on the satirical journal Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket.
The tribunal revived one of the deadliest episodes of contemporary France, just as this autumn another series of Islamist violence on home soil, including the decapitation of a school teacher, led the government to clamp down on what it terms Islamist separatism.
On January 7, 2015, almost a decade after the weekly cartoons insulting the Prophet Mohammed, Brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, spraying bullets and killing 12 (peace be upon him).
A third assailant, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a police woman and then four Jewish hostages in the Paris suburb of a Kosher supermarket. As the Kouachis, Coulibaly was assassinated in a police shootout.
Hayat Boumeddiene, Coulibaly’s former partner and one of three suspects charged in absentia, was among the 14 accomplices convicted on Wednesday. Believed to be both alive and on the run from a foreign arrest warrant, investigators referred to her as a “Islamic State princess”.
Boumeddiene, 32, was accused of terrorism funding and contributing to a criminal extremist network by the judges and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Three of the 14 fled to Syria just before the Paris attacks of January 7-9, 2015, which left 17 dead, along with the three gunmen alleging the killings on behalf of Al Qaeda and the IS group. The other 11, all guys, formed a circle of friends and prison associates who believed that unaware or more run-of-the mill crime such as armed robbery was every facilitation they might have done: guns stashed in a zipped duffel that few would confess to opening, cars, phones, and a short-term rental apartment scouted as a hideout.
Over the three-day era, one gambled day and night, knowing what had transpired only after seemingly emerging from the casino. A pot-smoking ambulance driver was another. A third was a childhood friend of the business robber, who after going into debt, got pounded to a pulp by the latter.
It was Ali Riza Polat’s coronavirus outbreak, identified as the lieutenant of Amdy Coulibaly, the virulently anti-Semitic business intruder, which caused the trial to be suspended for a month. The profane outbursts and threats by Polat drew rebukes from the chief justice. It was Polat who scrawled a price list of guns and ammunition connected to the attack, a handwriting expert testified. The minimum term that prosecutors have sought is five years.
In total, prosecutors, according to video testimony by the judicial police, sifted through 37 million bits of phone info. Among the men cuffed behind enclosed courtrooms, surrounded by masked and armed police, were many who in the days leading up to the attack, had exchanged messages or calls with Coulibaly. They defined some interactions as regular interactions between acquaintances.
Among those testifying were the widows of Chrif and Sad Kouachi, the brothers who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015, decimating the editorial staff of the newspapers in what they said was an act of retaliation for the publishing of cartoons years earlier.