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Six teens in court in connection with beheading of French teacher

Children stand in front of a drawing of French history and geography teacher Samuel Paty, in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Oct. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) Children stand in front of a drawing of French history and geography teacher Samuel Paty, in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Oct. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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PARIS -

Six teenagers go on trial behind closed doors on Monday in connection with the beheading of French history teacher Samuel Paty in 2020, a murder that shocked the country.

The teacher had shown his pupils caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression, angering some Muslim parents. Most Muslims avoid depictions of prophets, considering them blasphemous.

A 13-year-old girl at the time allegedly told her parents that Paty had asked Muslim pupils to leave the room before showing the caricatures. She is facing false accusation charges after it was established that she was not in the class when it happened.

Paty, 47, was killed outside his school in a Paris suburb by an 18-year-old assailant of Chechen origin, who was shot dead by police soon after the attack.

The five other minors, aged between 14 and 15 at the time of the attack, will be charged with premeditated criminal conspiracy, or ambush.

They are suspected of having pointed out Paty to the murderer or helped monitor his exit from the school.

All six minors were referred to the children's court and could face two and a half years in prison. They cannot be identified due to their age and entered court on Monday wearing hoodies to hide their faces.

"He is consumed with regret and is very fearful of the confrontation with Paty's family," Antoine Ory, lawyer for one of the accused, said on Monday before the hearing started.

Paty's sister Mickaelle said in a statement through lawyer Louis Cailliez that her brother would still be alive without a "fatal association of small cowardices, big lies."

The hearings, due to last until Dec. 8, will be held behind closed doors.

Eight adults are also accused and will appear before a special criminal court.

Last month, almost two years to the day of Paty's killing, a 20-year-old man fatally stabbed a teacher and gravely wounded two other people in an attack at a school in northern France, triggering renewed fears of jihadist violence.

France has suffered a wave of attacks by Islamist militants in past years, including a gun rampage in 2015 in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that had published caricatures Paty showed in his class.

(Reporting by Lucien Libert and Juliette Jabkhiro; Writing Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Giles Elgood and Alison Williams)

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