Hayat Boumeddiene, widow of one of January 2015 Paris attackers, sentenced to 30 years in prison

·3-min read

A French court found guilty on Wednesday 14 accomplices of the French Islamist militants behind the January 2015 jihadist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

Among the 14 was Hayat Boumeddiene, former partner of Amedy Coulibaly who murdered a policewoman and, a day later, four French Jews in the siege of a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

Boumeddiene was found guilty of financing terrorism and belonging to a criminal terrorist network. She is thought to be alive and on the run from an international arrest warrant in Syria, where she joined the Islamic State group.

Another of the three accomplices tried in absentia, Ali Riza Polat, a 35-year-old French-Turkish friend of Coulibaly's, whom prosecutors described as his "right-hand man", was also sentenced to 30 years in prison. Other sentences ranged upwards from four years.

Coulibaly was himself an associate of the gunmen behind the gruesome massacre that killed 12 people at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

The accomplices were found guilty on different charges, ranging from membership of a criminal network to complicity in the attacks.

The January 2015 attacks marked the onset of a wave of Islamist violence in which more than 250 people have been killed.

The trial comes as France has been shaken by the October 16 beheading of the teacher Samuel Paty by a Chechen Islamist militant unhappy about the display of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in a class on freedom of expression. Paty showed these images to his civics class while emphasising that students could choose not to look at them if they were offended.

On October 29, an attacker with a knife killed three people worshipping at a church in Nice, slitting the throats of two. A Tunisian man who arrived in France the previous month was charged for murder.

'Nefarious ideology'

In response to Paty’s murder, President Emmanuel Macron vowed that France would never give up Enlightenment values such as the right to blaspheme. He hailed the slain teacher as a "hero" for representing the secular, free-thinking values of the French republic.

France has a long tradition of caricatures taking on political and religious authorities – including Charlie Hebdo's rampant mockery of Catholicism.

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on December 9 a new bill to tackle the root causes of terrorism. He underlined that the text does not target religious freedom but is aimed at "the nefarious ideology of radical Islamism".

Castex described the proposed bill as "a law of freedom, of protection and emancipation in the face of religious fundamentalism”.

The proposed legislation would make it easier to stop mosques from receiving foreign financing, and would also offer protection to moderate community leaders who are in danger of being toppled by an extremist "putsch".

The draft law also proposes stricter criteria for authorising home schooling of children over three years old to prevent parents taking their children out of public schools and enrolling them in underground Islamist structures.

Doctors, meanwhile, would be fined or jailed if they perform a virginity test on girls.

The new law would also ban authorities from issuing residency papers to polygamous applicants.

“With what has been happening in France over the past few years and more recently, the government just can’t sit back and let this happen; it has to take some radical measures to stop this from continuing and getting worse,” said FRANCE 24 International Affairs Editor Philip Turle.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)