First Islamic terror trial ever to be filmed in France begins today

First Islamic terror trial ever to be filmed in France begins today September 2, 2020

HISTORY in the making: today  (Wednesday) 14 people go on trial in France accused of helping two Islamist attackers carry out a deadly attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015 – and permission has been granted for the proceedings to be filmed.

To mark the start of the trial, Charlie Hebdo‘s front cover features 12 original cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that first appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and were later reproduced by the French magazine.

Having refrained from publishing anything that could be in breach of Islam’s strong tradition of aniconism, which prohibits visual depictions of sentient beings for five years, Charlie Hebdo decided that the trial merited the re-publication of the 12 cartoons.

In its editorial, the magazine says that it has often been asked to carry on printing caricatures of the prophet since the 2015 attack that killed 12 people and injured 11 others.

We have always refused to do so, not because it is prohibited – the law allows us to do so –  but because there was a need for a good reason to do it, a reason which has meaning and which brings something to the debate.

To reproduce these cartoons in the week the trial over the January 2015 terrorist attacks opens seemed essential to us.

The front page of Le Temps says ‘In Paris, justice in the face of Charlie’s ghosts’. Image via YouTube.

Those on trial – one a woman – are accused of obtaining weapons and providing logistical support for the attackers of Charlie Hebdo‘s Paris offices, and subsequent attacks on a Jewish supermarket and a police officer.

Three of the accused are being tried in absentia as they are believed to have fled to northern Syria and Iraq.

There are believed to be some 200 plaintiffs in the trial and survivors of the attacks are expected to testify. The trial had been due to start in March but was postponed because of the COVID 19. It is due to last until November.

Image via YouTube

On January, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, and opened fire killing the editor Stéphane Charbonnier, above, known as Charb, four other cartoonists including Cabu, two columnists, a copy editor, a guest attending the meeting and the caretaker. The editor’s bodyguard and a police officer were also killed. The gunmen were later killed.

Charb had strongly defended the cartoons as symbolic of freedom of speech. He said in this 2012 video:

I don’t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawing. I live under French law. I don’t live under Koranic law.

Following the 2015 attack, thousands of people took to the streets in protest and the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) began trending around the world.

In France, it is illegal to video legal hearings and the offence can carry a fine of €18,000. But exceptions have been made. Since a law was passed in 1985 authorising audio and visual recordings in cases of exceptional historic interest, eight trials before the Charlie Hebdo case were filmed, the first being that of  Nazi criminal Klaus Barbie, nicknamed “the Butcher of Lyon”, in 1987.

First President of the Paris Court of Appeal, Jean-Michel Hayat, can grant permission to film court proceedings and he did so for the Charlie Hebdo case in June after he received a special request from the National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office. He said in his ruling:

The repercussions and the emotion they (the attacks) generated have exceeded our borders substantially (…) They have profoundly marked the history of national and international terrorism.

UPDATE: France’s President Macron defends freedom of the press, and people’s right to “blaspheme”.

Macron, speaking during a visit to Lebanon, said it was important for French citizens to be respectful to each other, and avoid a “dialogue of hate” but he would not criticise Charlie Hebdo‘s decision to republish the cartoons.

Macron extolled the virtues of democracy and freedom of speech as he said:

It’s never the place of a President of the Republic to pass judgment on the editorial choice of a journalist or newsroom, never. Because we have freedom of the press

There is in France a freedom to blaspheme which is attached to the freedom of conscience. I am here to protect all these freedoms …

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

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