PARIS—A French court convicted 14 people Wednesday of helping carry out the 2015 terrorist attacks on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store, as France sought to close one of the more painful chapters in its modern history.
The three-day shooting spree that killed 17 people in January 2015 marked the beginning of a string of terrorist attacks that would leave hundreds dead in the years to come and reshape everyday life in France. All three of the gunmen who mounted the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the grocer died in standoffs with police at the time.
On Wednesday, judges in Paris handed down prison sentences to a network of people charged with assisting the men. Three people were convicted in absentia, including Hayat Boumeddiene, who married one of the gunmen in a religious ceremony before the attacks.
She received a sentence of 30 years in prison for belonging to a terrorist organization and financing terrorism. Ms. Boumeddiene, whom prosecutors described in court as an “Islamic State princess,” fled to Syria days before the attacks. She is on the run from an international arrest warrant.
Ali Riza Polat, a 35-year-old French-Turkish man, was sentenced to life in prison for aiding and abetting Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who attacked the grocery store.
“Judges must not soak up a certain frustration for not having been able to prosecute the real perpetrators of the attacks and transfer all these frustrations on Mr. Polat,” said Antoine Van Rie, a lawyer for Mr. Polat. He said he would appeal the verdict.
Three other suspects were convicted on terrorism charges. Seven more defendants were found guilty of lesser crimes, such as belonging to a criminal enterprise.
Scars from the attack on Charlie Hebdo continue to loom large in France. The attackers targeted the newspaper after it published cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. The massacre of its newsroom transformed Charlie Hebdo into a symbol of freedom of expression and was followed by an outpouring of solidarity as people around the world adopted the rallying cry “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie.”
As the trial got under way, Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoons, rekindling anger among Muslims who regard depictions of Muhammad as blasphemous. Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old middle-school teacher, was beheaded in a terrorist attack after showing some of the cartoons to his class as part of a lesson on free speech.
“We do not want to live under the yoke of dogma. We want to remain free,” said Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer Richard Malka.
The verdict came amid a government campaign against radical Islam that some Muslim leaders and human-rights organizations say risks stigmatizing France’s Muslim community, one of Europe’s largest.
The government intensified its efforts in the wake of the attack against the teacher and the killing of three people inside a Basilica in Nice this fall. In recent weeks, authorities have shut down dozens of mosques, religious associations and schools, and launched probes into several dozen others.
The government also proposed legislation earlier this month to outlaw “Islamist separatism,” which the government defines as a broad array of activities, from improper home schooling to online hate speech, that aims to build a parallel society where religious rules override civil ones.
The trial, which opened in September, was suspended for about a month in November after three of the accused contracted the coronavirus.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo began on Jan. 7, 2015, when Chérif and Said Kouachi stormed the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo wielding AK-47 rifles. After gunning down a receptionist, the two brothers reached the second floor, where reporters and cartoonists were holding their weekly editorial meeting. In a burst of gunfire, they killed eight staffers, one guest and a police officer serving as bodyguard to the magazine’s editor in chief.
“We have avenged Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo,” they shouted as they fled.
They ran into several police patrols, killing one officer.
A day later, a third gunman, Mr. Coulibaly, shot and killed a policewoman in a street in Montrouge, a Paris suburb.
The next day, police cornered the Kouachi brothers inside a printing house northeast of Paris.
As police surrounded the facility, Mr. Coulibaly took hostages inside a grocery store, threatening to kill them if the Kouachi brothers were harmed. He killed four people at the store.
The three gunmen were killed in simultaneous raids hours later. Islamic State released a video days later calling Mr. Coulibaly its soldier.
Al Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on the magazine.
Days after the attack, world leaders converged on Paris, walking arm-in-arm, as millions of French mounted a nationwide march in a display of unity against the terrorist attacks.
Write to Noemie Bisserbe at firstname.lastname@example.org
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