Thirteen men and a woman go on trial Wednesday over the 2015 attacks against a satirical newspaper and a kosher supermarket in Paris that marked the beginning of a wave of violence by the Islamic State group in Europe.
Seventeen people and all three gunmen died during the three days of attacks in January 2015.
Those on trial in France’s terrorism court are accused of buying weapons, cars, and helping with logistics. Most say they thought they were helping plan an ordinary crime.
Three, including the only woman accused, are being tried in absentia after leaving to join Islamic State.
The attacks from January 7-9, 2015, started during an editorial meeting at Charlie Hebdo, whose offices had been unmarked and guarded by police since the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed years before. Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, gunned down 12 people before carjacking a vehicle and fleeing. They claimed the attacks in the name of al-Qaida.
Two days later, on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, Amedy Coulibaly stormed the Hyper Cacher supermarket, killing four hostages in the name of the Islamic State group as the brothers took control of a printing office outside the French capital. The attackers died that day during near-simultaneous police raids.
It took days more for investigators to realise that Coulibaly was also responsible for the seemingly random death of a young policewoman the previous day.
It took further weeks to unravel the network of petty criminals and neighbourhood friends linking the three attackers. By then, Coulibaly’s wife had left for Syria with the help of two brothers also charged in the case. Most of the 11 who will appear insist their help in the mass killings was unwitting.
“Since 2012, terrorism capitalised on the prevailing delinquency there is around these terrorists,” said Samia Maktouf, a lawyer for one of the attack survivors. “They are not second fiddles, they are full accomplices. You know, when you provide a weapon it’s not to go and party.”
Later that year, a separate network of French and Belgian fighters for Islamic State struck Paris again, this time killing 130 people in attacks at the Bataclan concert hall, the national stadium, and in bars and restaurants.
Wednesday’s trial opened under tight security, with multiple police checks for anyone entering the main courtroom or the overflow rooms. At nearby newsstands, the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo appeared, reprinting the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed cited by the gunmen who killed so many of the publication’s editorial staff.
“They died so that you journalists could do your jobs”, said Richard Malka, lawyer for Charlie Hebdo. “Let us not be afraid. Not of terrorism, not of freedom.”