PARIS—Days earlier than Samuel Paty was beheaded in an assault that shocked France, the 47-year-old historical past instructor was guiding his class by means of a fraught debate over the bounds of free speech.
The instructor—who was interviewed by French authorities in regards to the lesson earlier than his dying—mentioned he had warned college students within the class to avert their eyes earlier than he displayed cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, the satirical journal focused in a bloody terror assault in 2015.
“He said he had taken care, before showing some of these drawings, to suggest his students look away in the event they might be offended,” mentioned Jean-François Ricard, France’s antiterrorism prosecutor.
The lesson, nonetheless, angered a mum or dad on the college, who posted movies on social media, directing invective at Mr. Paty for sharing an outline of Muhammad with the category and demanding his dismissal, Mr. Ricard mentioned. French investigators at the moment are making an attempt to find out how the polemic spilled onto social media and whether or not that publicity performed a job in Mr. Paty’s killing.
French officers say his attacker—recognized as Abdoullakh Abouyezidvitch A., an 18-year-old Russian nationwide of Chechen origin—lurked exterior the college on Friday afternoon asking college students to determine Mr. Paty. He killed him shortly after lessons ended, leaving his physique on the street, officers mentioned. Mr. Ricard mentioned the suspect then claimed accountability for the assault in a message despatched on his Twitter account, which mentioned Mr. Paty had abased the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Police shot him lifeless minutes later.
Police have detained no less than 9 individuals for questioning in reference to the assault, together with 4 members of the family of the suspect and the mum or dad who posted the movies.
The assault unfolded towards a backdrop of rising tensions between France’s Muslim neighborhood, amongst Europe’s largest, and a political institution decided to protect the nation’s long-running custom of strict secularism.
Those two worlds collide within the classroom, the place France has imposed a ban on Muslim headscarves and different spiritual symbols. France will manage a nationwide homage to Mr. Paty in coordination along with his household Wednesday, in line with an aide to French President Emmanuel Macron.
“It’s an attack against the Republic because school is the backbone of the Republic,” French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer mentioned.
Mr. Macron’s authorities has not too long ago moved to outlaw what he known as “Islamic separatism” in communities the place he mentioned spiritual legal guidelines are taking priority over civil ones. Mr. Macron mentioned the regulation, if handed, would empower authorities to close down associations and colleges that he mentioned indoctrinate kids, and monitor overseas funding in spiritual organizations in France.
The proposed regulation goals to stem what many French think about the regular erosion of the values of the French republic. Charlie Hebdo’s tendency to depict spiritual figures in bawdy cartoons made it an emblem of freedom of expression. It additionally made the journal a goal for Islamic State militants who massacred the publication’s newsroom in January 2015 earlier than dying in a shootout with police days later.
In September, France opened a trial of the assault’s alleged accomplices after a yearslong investigation into the assault and one other assault that occurred days later on a Kosher grocery retailer. As the trial began, Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoons that triggered the 2015 assault, saying the cartoons served as “evidence.” Days later, a Pakistani immigrant wielding a butcher knife attacked and critically wounded two individuals exterior Charlie Hebdo’s former workplace.
It was on this cauldron of social and spiritual turmoil that Mr. Paty ready to offer his lesson in early October. As a part of that eighth-grade lesson on the “contours and limits of free speech,” Mr. Ricard mentioned Mr. Paty had organized a debate over Charlie Hebdo’s publication of caricatures of Muhammad.
According to a replica of the lesson plan described by Mr. Ricard, Mr. Paty confirmed the category two cartoons. One depicted a person on his arms and knees, along with his genitals uncovered and a star overlaying a part of his bottom. The cartoon’s caption learn: “Muhammad, a star is born,” Mr. Ricard mentioned.
A mum or dad on the college was incensed, and on Oct. 7 recorded the primary of three movies and a number of other social media postings inciting others to protest and search Mr. Paty’s firing, Mr. Ricard mentioned. The mum or dad, whose title hasn’t been launched, is the daddy whose daughter attends the college, and is now in custody for questioning associated to the assault, Mr. Ricard mentioned. The man’s half sister joined Islamic State in Syria in 2014, and continues to be sought by authorities, Mr. Ricard mentioned.
In the primary video, which was considered by The Wall Street Journal, the daddy calls Mr. Paty a “thug.” The instructor, he says, had requested Muslim college students within the class to lift their arms after which directed them to depart the classroom earlier than exhibiting his daughter and the remaining college students a picture of a unadorned man that he mentioned the instructor recognized as Prophet Muhammad.
In the video the daddy mentioned his daughter was suspended for 2 days for refusing to depart the room, however Mr. Ricard mentioned the principal had attributed her suspension to not the caricatures however to her conduct and tardiness. Efforts to achieve the college have been unsuccessful over the weekend.
The father known as on individuals watching the video who “want to stand together and say, ‘Stop, don’t touch our children,’” to ship him textual content messages. A name to the quantity he supplied within the video went to an automatic recording saying the mailbox was full.
Rodrigo Arenas, co-president of one among France’s nationwide federations of parent-teacher associations, mentioned he was alerted to the video two days later, as a result of it was spreading rapidly on social media. Complaints poured in from across the nation. “When we heard this information in the morning we thought it was fake news,” Mr. Arenas mentioned. “True or not, it was going viral.”
On Oct. 8, the daddy confirmed up at college with one other man to complain to the principal, Mr. Ricard mentioned. The principal “tried in vain to calm things down while the two men virulently demanded the firing of the teacher,” Mr. Ricard mentioned. He added that the second man, who he mentioned was recognized to French intelligence providers, is in custody for questioning, alongside along with his companion.
That identical night, the daddy posted a second video to social media, wherein he gave Mr. Paty’s title and the handle of the college, in line with Mr. Ricard, and incited his contacts “to say, ‘Stop!’”
The father later went to the native police station alongside along with his daughter to file a criticism for the “distribution of pornographic images,” Mr. Ricard mentioned.
During an Oct. 10 interview with police, Mr. Paty strongly denied asking Muslim college students to determine themselves and go away the room, Mr. Ricard mentioned, telling police he solely advised college students may wish to look away from some photos. Upon studying of the daddy’s video, Mr. Paty additionally filed his personal criticism for defamation, Mr. Ricard mentioned.
Two days later, the daddy printed one other video on social media, Mr. Ricard mentioned. In it the daughter repeats her story. The different man who accompanied the daddy to the college additionally seems, saying President Macron has “stirred up hatred” towards Muslims and threatening to mount protests if the instructor isn’t fired, in line with Mr. Ricard.
Mr. Arenas, of the federation of parent-teacher associations, mentioned that after the video, he rapidly knowledgeable the mayor of the city to arrange for a protest that was probably being organized in entrance of the college. The mayor ordered a police element stationed in entrance of the college, and the protest didn’t happen, Mr. Arenas mentioned. Mr. Ricard mentioned the college additionally obtained threats.
The principal reached out to folks, and met with some to calm the state of affairs, however the father refused to fulfill with the instructor, Mr. Ricard mentioned.
On Friday, Abdoullakh Abouyezidvitch A. approached college students exterior the college to ask them to determine Mr. Paty, Mr. Ricard mentioned. Born in Moscow, the Russian lived in France legally as a refugee and was recognized to police just for petty crimes as a minor, Mr. Ricard mentioned. He lived in a city in Normandy, greater than 40 miles away from the scene of the crime.
Local police discovered Mr. Paty’s physique decapitated, with knife wounds to each the pinnacle and torso, near the college and en path to the instructor’s close by residence, Mr. Ricard mentioned.
—Noemie Bisserbe and Matthew Dalton contributed to this text.
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