A schoolgirl who triggered an online hate campaign that ended in the grisly beheading of a French teacher has admitted to lying and spreading false claims about him, her lawyer said on Monday.
The unnamed girl had claimed the teacher, Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by an Islamic extremist in the street in October last year, had asked Muslims to leave the class when he showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a debate on free speech and blasphemy.
The cartoons had previously been published in the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
The girl's father later filed a legal complaint and posted his allegations online. That prompted a social media hate campaign that ended in an 18-year-old Chechen refugee tracking down Mr Paty in the town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris.
On Monday, a lawyer for the girl, who had a history of disciplinary problems, confirmed she in fact never attended the class and was away on sick leave at the time.
"She lied because she felt trapped in a spiral because her classmates had asked her to be a spokesperson," her lawyer Mbeko Tabula told AFP confirming a report from the Parisien newspaper.
She has since been charged with slander, while her father and another man, an Islamist preacher and campaigner, have been charged with "complicity in murder" over the killing.
Mr Paty's murderer, who was shot dead by police shortly after the attack was in contact with someone in Syria who is a member of a jihadist group just before the murder, according to Le Parisien.
A draft security law under discussion in French parliament plans to punish circulating information online about a state employee, when this could knowingly cause them harm, with prison.
The revelation came as the French government on Monday warned that a student poster campaign accusing two university professors of “Islamophobia” could put the lecturers’ “lives in danger”.
Students slapped the posters on the walls of a leading political science faculty in Grenoble last Friday, likening the professors to “fascists” and naming them both in a move backed by the main UNEF student union.
On Monday, junior interior minister Marlène Schiappa said: “These are really odious acts after what happened with the decapitation of Samuel Paty who was smeared in the same way on social networks.”
Such action “very clearly puts their lives in danger”, she told BFM TV.
“When something is viewed as racist or discriminatory, there’s a hierarchy where you can report these types of issues, which will speak to the professor and take action if anything is proven,” she said.
“One cannot start saying you are going to take the law into your own hands by writing people’s name on walls , especially when you know that behind it, there is a risk of death.”
Sciences Po university, which runs the Institute of Political Studies in Grenoble in eastern France, also condemned the campaign on Monday and has filed a criminal complaint.
An investigation has been opened into slander and property damage after the posters saying “Fascists in our lecture halls. Islamophobia kills” were found on the walls of the faculty.