14 people are on trial in France under the accusation of involvement with the 2015 terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices and surrounding areas in Paris. 17 people were killed over the space of three days in the city, and a wave of other devastating incidents rocked the nation over the subsequent years. The three individuals directly responsible for the attacks were killed by police at the time of the incidents, however, those on trial are accused of supplying money, vehicles or weapons to aid the assailants.
The initial attack stemmed from the publication of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad within the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine, considered extremely blasphemous by those in the Islamic community. Two gunmen stormed the building and killed twelve members of the publication team. A second shooting took place in a kosher supermarket the following day, in which four customers lost their lives. Demonstrations of solidarity took place across the world over the coming days, with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie trending internationally.
In a tribute to those who were killed in the attack, Charlie Hebdo reprinted the controversial cover image on the first day of the trial, with the magazine describing the cartoons as “part of History, and one cannot rewrite History, neither can it be erased.” President Emmanuel Macron defended this choice, saying that “In France, there’s also a freedom to blaspheme that is linked to the freedom of conscience”. Freedom of press and religious belief are both of extreme importance within French culture, so an incident of this nature brings these issues into conflict with one another in a very public manner.
Around 150 witnesses are expected to be heard during the trial, which was delayed due to Coronavirus and is likely to last at least two months.