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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > France: Teacher decapitated in Paris named as Samuel Paty, 47

France: Teacher decapitated in Paris named as Samuel Paty, 47

Saturday 17 October 2020, by siawi3


Teacher decapitated in Paris named as Samuel Paty, 47

Terrorism investigation opened after 18-year-old attacker shot dead by police

Kim Willsher in Paris

Sat 17 Oct 2020 15.30 BST
First published on Sat 17 Oct 2020 10.00 BST

Paris suburb in shock after teacher beheaded – video here 1:16

A history teacher decapitated outside his secondary school in a Paris suburb on Friday after he showed a caricature of the prophet Muhammad to his pupils has been named.

Samuel Paty, 47, who taught history and geography at the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine , north-west of the French capital, was attacked on Friday evening by an 18-year-old man who was shot dead by police shortly afterwards.

The anti-terror prosecutor has opened an investigation into “assassination linked to a terrorist organisation and association with terrorist criminals”.

Nine people were being questioned by police on Saturday, among them members of the attacker’s family, including his grandfather and 17-year-old brother.

Earlier this month, Paty had shown a class of teenage pupils a caricature from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a moral and civic education class discussion about freedom of speech, sparking a furious response from a number of parents who had demanded his resignation. Before presenting the caricature, the teacher reportedly invited Muslim students to leave the classroom if they wished.

Afterwards, the father of a 13-year-old girl who did not leave the class posted a video on YouTube claiming the teacher had shown a “photo of a naked man” claiming he was the “Muslim prophet”. The father called on other parents to join him in a collective action against the teacher, whom he described as a “voyou” (thug).

In order to calm the situation, the school organised a meeting between the headteacher, the teacher and an official from the education authority.

The teacher had gone to the local police station, with the head of the school, earlier this month after a legal complaint about his lesson. He reportedly told investigators he could not understand because the daughter of the father who had complained was not in class the day he showed the cartoon. The professor lived near the school and was used to walking through a wood to get home, but had decided to change his route to walk through a residential area because he felt threatened.

Jean-François Ricard, France’s anti-terrorist prosecutor, said the teacher had been “assassinated for teaching” and the attack was an assault on the principle of freedom of expression. “This is the second attack to take place during the Charlie Hebdo trial which shows the high level of terrorist threat we face,” Ricard said.

He said police shot the killer after he shot at police with an air rifle and threatened them with a knife. The killer Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old who had been given a residency card in March 2020, was a refugee and lived in Évreux in Normandy.

Beheading of French teacher an attack on ’the republic and its values’, says Macron – video here 1:01

Ricard said the killer had posted a “macabre photo” of the victim on Twitter along with a message which named the victim.

The victim was walking home from school when he was attacked. “He had numerous wounds to the head … and he had been decapitated,” Ricard said. The weapon was found nearby.

Ricard said: “The first investigation shows the victim had during a 4th year class a discussion about freedom of expression as allowed under the national curriculum.” Later a parent posted a complaint on Facebook about the professor showing a “naked picture” of the Prophet. This same parent went to the school to complain, and later posted a video with the message “stop”. The father then went to the police station with his daughter to lodge an official complaint against the professor for the distribution of “pornographic images”.

“The professor contested firmly that he asked Muslim students to identify themselves and leave the class,” Ricard said. He showed several caricatures from Charlie Hebdo but suggested those who might be upset did not have to see them, Ricard said.

The college received several “menacing calls” in the following days.

Ricard said the police were trying to establish the run-up to the crime and whether the killer had accomplices.

Jordan Bardella, the vice-president of the far right Rassemblement National, accused parents of organising a “fatwa” against the professors.

A crowd of mourners including fellow teachers, local politicians and officials and former pupils of the professor gathered outside the school on Saturday.

Macron visited the scene of the attack on Friday evening. “One of our compatriots was assassinated today because he taught pupils freedom of expression, the freedom to believe and not believe,” he said. “This was a cowardly attack on our compatriot. He was the victim of a typical Islamist terrorist attack.”

A court in Paris is currently trying 14 people in connection with the January 2015 killings at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher, and the gunning down of a police officer. Three weeks ago, a man with a knife stabbed two members of a television production company outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in response to the newspaper’s decision to republish the controversial caricatures, originally printed in 2015, to mark the opening of the trial.

Staff at Charlie Hebdo released a statement after Friday’s killing expressing their “horror and revulsion”.

On social media, parents paid tribute to the teacher. “RIP Monsieur Paty. He was my son’s teacher last year. He was a man of great humanity,” wrote one.

The hashtag #JeSuisProf (I’m a teacher) was spreading on social media on Saturday. It is reminiscent of #JeSuisCharlie, which emerged as a global wave of support for the journalists and staff of Charlie Hebdo killed in 2015.