French court finds 14 accomplices in 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack guilty

A French court on Wednesday convicted 14 people in connection with the 2015 Islamist attacks against the offices of Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket that left 17 people and the three gunmen dead. The convictions were for offences ranging from financing terrorism to membership in a criminal gang.

The trial has reopened one of modern France’s darkest episodes not long after another wave of Islamist attacks on home soil, including the beheading of a school teacher this fall, prompted the government to crack down on what it calls Islamist separatism.

Brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, spraying gunfire and killing 12, on Jan. 7, 2015, nearly a decade after the weekly published cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

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

Hayat Boumeddiene, right, is seen presenting her passport at Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul on Jan. 2, 2015. Turkey said she had crossed into Syria on Jan. 8, the same day that her partner, Amedy Coulibaly, shot and killed a police officer in a Parisian suburb on the second day of the Paris attacks. (Ihlas News Agency/STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Among the 14 accomplices sentenced on Wednesday was Hayat Boumeddiene, the former partner of Coulibaly and one of three defendants tried in absentia. Believed to be still alive and on the run from an international arrest warrant, prosecutors referred to her as an “Islamic State princess.”

The judges convicted Boumeddiene, 32, of financing terrorism and belonging to a criminal terrorist network and sentenced her to 30 years in jail.

‘Desire to sow terror’

The attacks, claimed by al-Qaeda and the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), laid bare France’s struggle to counter the threat of militants brought up in the country and of foreign jihadists.

Laurent Hatchi, left, the lawyer for the family of Clarissa Jean-Philippe, a French police officer killed in the Paris attacks on Jan. 8, 2015, talks to reporters at the courthouse where the verdicts were handed down on Wednesday. (Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images)

“The fact of choosing victims precisely because they were journalists, or a member of the security forces, or of Jewish faith, clearly demonstrates in itself their desire to sow terror in Western countries,” the presiding judge said.

Terrorism-related charges were dropped for six of the defendants who were found guilty of lesser crimes.

Journalists from Charlie Hebo testified during the trial.

‘Nebulous networks’ behind attacks

After Wednesday’s ruling, the magazine’s lawyer, Richard Malka, described the defendants as part of a nebulous support network that enabled the attackers to spill blood.

“Without these nebulous networks, attacks cannot occur,” he told reporters in the first reaction from the magazine or its representatives to the verdicts.

People hug each other outside the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after the shooting on Jan. 7, 2015. Masked gunmen stormed the offices and killed at least 11 people. (Remy de la Mauviniere/The Associated Press)

On the eve of the trial’s opening, Charlie Hebdo, which has long tested the limits of what society will accept in the name of free speech, reprinted the cartoons that had stirred outrage in the Muslim world when they were first published by a Danish paper in 2005.

A month after the trail began, history teacher Samuel Paty was decapitated by a teenage Islamist who said in a recorded message that he was avenging Paty’s use of the cartoons in a class on civil liberties.

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