A French juvenile court has convicted six teenagers for their roles in the beheading of a teacher by an Islamic extremist that shocked the country.
Teacher Samuel Paty was killed outside his school in 2020 after showing his class cartoons of the prophet of Islam during a debate on free expression.
The attacker, a young Chechen who had been radicalised, was killed by police.
The court found five of the defendants, 14 and 15 at the time, guilty of staking out the teacher and identifying him for the attacker.
They were charged with criminal conspiracy with the aim of preparing aggravated violence.
Another defendant, 13 at the time, was accused of lying about the classroom debate in a comment that aggravated online anger against the teacher.
All were handed brief or suspended prison terms. The teenagers, who were all pupils at Mr Paty’s school, told the court they did not know the teacher would be killed.
They left the courtroom without speaking. Some had their heads down as they listened to the verdicts. One appeared to wipe away tears.
Mr Paty’s name had been disclosed on social media after a class debate on free expression during which he showed prophet caricatures published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. An extremist massacre in the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in 2015 left 17 people, including 11 journalists, dead.
Abdoullakh Anzorov killed the teacher of history and geography on 16 October 2020, near his school in a Paris suburb.
The killing prompted a wave of anger, with thousands of people taking to the streets to show their support for freedom of speech and to mourn Mr Paty.
The five who had identified him to the attacker were convicted of involvement in a group preparing aggravated violence.
The sixth defendant wrongly claimed that Mr Paty had asked Muslim children to raise their hands and leave the classroom before he showed the class the prophet cartoons. She was not in the classroom that day, and later told investigators she had lied. She was convicted of making false allegations.
Her father shared the lie in an online video that called for mobilisation against the teacher.
He and a radical Islamic activist who helped disseminate virulent messages against Mr Paty are among eight adults who will face a separate trial for adults suspected of involvement in the killing, expected late next year.
The trial was held behind closed doors, and the media may not disclose the defendants’ identities, under French law.
In October, another French teacher was fatally stabbed, and three other people injured in northern France in an attack by a former pupil suspected of Islamic radicalisation.
Amid global tensions over the Israel-Hamas war, the attack prompted French authorities to deploy 7,000 extra soldiers across the country to bolster security and vigilance.