The barbaric murder of the teacher Samuel Paty in France three years ago left a deep wound that has not healed to this day. The verdicts handed down on Friday in the first trial surrounding the Islamist-motivated terrorist act are unlikely to change this. Six students had to answer before a Paris juvenile court for their involvement in the dramatic incident that led to the bloody crime three years ago. Five of them received suspended sentences and one student was sentenced to six months in prison.

On October 16, 2020, an 18-year-old killed and then beheaded the history teacher in a Paris suburb. The police shot the perpetrator, who had Russian-Chechen roots. The crime sparked international outrage.

Before the crime, Paty had been criticized on the Internet because he had shown caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in class on the subject of freedom of expression. Five students who were 14 and 15 years old at the time of the crime are said to have helped the assassin to recognize 47-year-old Paty. The student, who told the attacker that it was the teacher Paty as he was leaving school, must serve six months in prison with an electronic ankle bracelet.

A then 13-year-old student who triggered the crime with a false accusation received an 18-month suspended prison sentence. She is said to have talked about a presentation of the controversial cartoons at home, even though she wasn’t at school that day. In France, children are generally considered to be of criminal responsibility from the age of 13.

The public was excluded from the process. What the students said about what happened was not made public. The public will therefore only have further information about the circumstances that led to the crime at the end of 2024 at the trial of eight adult defendants. Some of them are said to have directly supported the attacker in preparing his crime.

The five accused students became assistants by chance, the magazine “L’Obs” reported, citing their interrogations. The attacker showed up at the school and offered one of the students 300 euros to show him who the teacher was. He spoke badly of Paty and stated that he wanted to force him to apologize to the Muslims. The student accepted the offer and enlisted a few comrades. The young people are said to have suspected that the assassin was up to no good – but they apparently had no idea about the murder plot.

Even before the trial began, France was once again shaken by a fatal attack on a teacher. On October 13, an Islamist radicalized 20-year-old stabbed a teacher to death in a school in Arras, northern France. The authorities had the young man in their sights as a threat. As with the brutal attack on Paty, France saw its secular state under attack and, in particular, a key pillar of it, the national education system. Some complained that the country had not managed to better protect its teachers within three years.