6 teens involved in beheading of French teacher convicted, sentenced

French lawyer Francis Spizner, representing the family of terrorism victim Samuel Paty, talks to the media on Friday after hearing the guilty verdicts for six minors on trial for their involvement in the murder of the teacher in 2020. Photo by Yoan Valat/EPA-EFE

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Six middle school students tried for their involvement in the 2020 beheading of French history teacher Samuel Paty were found guilty by a Paris juvenile court on Friday, with most receiving suspended sentences.

Five of the students drew suspended 14-month sentences on conspiracy charges, while the sixth was sentenced to two years imprisonment with all but six months suspended, the New York Times and the French daily Le Figaro reported.

The sixth student, accused of describing Paty to his attacker, will serve his six-month sentence under house arrest and must wear an electronic bracelet.

The court said the sentences took into account "the seriousness of the facts" in the case of Paty, a 47-year-old history and geography teacher who was stabbed and then beheaded in October 2020 near his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris.

Police said Abdoullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Russian refugee of Chechen origin, killed the teacher after Paty had angered some of his Islamic students by displaying controversial caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad during a discussion of the 2015 attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Anzorov was shot and killed by French police shortly after the incident, while the teenage students were charged with aiding the killer.

Juvenile officials also said they considered the "personality" and "development" of the six teens, aged between 13 and 15, in passing down the sentence. They are among of a total of 14 people charged in connection with the case -- another trial is planned for eight adults at the end of 2024.

The lack of jail time for any of the students in a terrorism case that shocked the country angered advocates for the victim, French media reported. One lawyer for Paty's family left the court on the verge of tears.

"It's a difficult decision for the family; there is disappointment, anger, incomprehension," attorney Virginie Le Roy told reporters. "The sentences do not live up to the facts, the drama. This is a bad signal for the family, for the students and for the teachers."