Start of the trial in Paris of 4 people involved in the murder of a priest claimed by IS

PARIS – Four people will go on trial on Monday for conspiring to commit a terrorist act in connection with the murder of a Catholic priest inside a church in Normandy in 2016.

Father Jacques Hamel was killed by two 19-year-old attackers as he celebrated mass on a peaceful summer weekday in the small Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, in which two nuns and an elderly couple were held hostage before the attackers slit the priest’s throat and seriously injured the other man. Another nun escaped and raised the alarm, and police shot and killed the two attackers as they left the church.

The four men on trial are suspected of having aided or abetted the attack.

Three were present at the Paris court on Monday.

The fourth, Rachid Kassim, a Frenchman who was a notorious Islamic State recruiter, is on trial in absentia: he was allegedly killed in a 2017 drone strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul. He is suspected of using social media to encourage the attack.

A d

Kassim had already been sentenced to life in absentia three years ago for having ordered a failed attack in Paris, during which two women having pledged allegiance to the EI group had exploded a car in 2016 near Notre-Dame cathedral.

The three other suspects in the case of the murder of a Catholic priest each face 30 years in prison.

Jean-Philippe Steven Jean-Louis, 25, wanted to go to Syria and traveled to Istanbul with one of the attackers, Abdel-Malik Petitjean. He reportedly knew Petitjean intended to carry out an attack in France and is accused of setting up an online money-raising site to help fund the project.

Investigators said Jean-Louis had spread IS group propaganda through a Telegram channel on which he encouraged extremist acts.

Farid Khelil, 36, is Petitjean’s cousin and is accused of knowing and supporting the attack.

Yassine Sebaihia, 27, was in contact with one of the dead attackers.

A d

The 92-year-old parishioner who was injured in the church during the attack is attending the trial.

His wife, also held hostage in the church, told investigators that the priest had been specifically targeted by the assailants because “they walked straight towards him and brought him to his knees”.

The verdict is due on March 11.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Comments are closed.