A trial has opened in Paris Wednesday for 14 accused in the deadly 2015 attacks at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher supermarket.
The defendants face 10 years to life in prison if convicted.
The attacks were said to be motivated by the paper’s publishing 12 controversial cartoons, one of which mocked Prophet Mohammad, considered a sacrilege by Muslims.
Reaction in France was swift, with the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) being launched and thousands marching in the streets in solidarity.
Charlie Hebdo republished on its cover Tuesday the same cartoons with the headline “All this for that”.
A three-day reign of terror in the capital began on Jan. 7 as two gunmen armed with Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles stormed the Chalie Hebdo headquarters, killing 12 people including 10 staff members, a visitor, and a policeman outside.
Violence followed the day after, as two separate terrorists shot dead a policewoman in the Paris suburb of Montrouge, as well as on the following day with four hostages shot dead at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in the eastern suburb of Dammartin-en-Goele.
The trial, which is expected to last four months, will take place in the special court of assize, the only French court with a jury trial. A total of 144 witnesses, including survivors, will participate, with 14 experts present to evaluate the evidence presented.
All but one of the four gunmen were shot dead by police; the 14 who stand trial are considered accomplices.
Still at large is Hayat Boumeddiene, who carried out the executions at the Hyper Cacher market. Even though not physically present, Boumeddiene is listed as one of those who will stand trial.
On Charlie Hebdo’s decision to reprint the cartoons, President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday refused to comment, saying it was not his place as executive to comment on a matter of free speech.
“There is in France a freedom to blaspheme, which is attached to the freedom of conscience. I am here to protect all these freedoms.”
The controversial cartoons depicting Muhammad were first published by Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in 2005 and reprinted by Charlie Hebdo in 2006.
Following the 2006 publication of the cartoons, people warned Charlie Hebdo on social media that it would pay for its mockery. For Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet Mohammad is blasphemous.
In 2007, a French court rejected accusations by Islamic groups that the publication incited hatred against Muslims.
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