Islamic State Killing of French Priest: 4 Convicted in Paris

On Wednesday, March 9, four men were convicted in Paris for terrorist conspiracy after the murder of a Catholic priest in a Normandy church in 2016, an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

Newsroom (13/03/2022 3:00 PM Gaudium Press) The accused were handed sentences of between eight years and life in prison over the attack on Father Jacques Hamel, 85, who was stabbed in his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray by two 19-year-olds as he finished Mass. The duo held two nuns and an elderly couple hostage before the assailants slashed the priest’s throat and seriously injured another elderly churchgoer.

The two attackers, identified as Abdel Malik Petitjean and Adel Kermiche, were killed by police as they left the church. The four men on trial were accused of having helped or encouraged the attack.

The archbishop for the region welcomed the verdict, and the lawyer for the injured man described a sense of “spirituality” present at the trial. Families of victims held hands with the defendants while the injured man testified that he forgave them, the lawyer said.

Only three defendants were present at the trial, and the other was convicted in absentia.

The three present did not play a role in carrying out the attack but were part of the attackers’ entourage. During the trial, they asked for forgiveness and admitted that they voluntarily associated with individuals who were preparing to commit terrorist crimes. But they argued that wasn’t enough to mark them as terrorists, too.

Prosecutors disagreed, and the judges found all of them guilty of criminal association with terrorists.

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Jean-Philippe Steven Jean-Louis, 25, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for attempting to travel to Syria with one of the attackers and his Islamic proselytism on Telegram.

A cousin of one of the attackers, Farid Khelil, was sentenced to 10 years. Prosecutors stated he was informed of the attack plan and supported it. In an apparent effort to distance himself from the religious extremists, Khelil testified at the trial that he is bisexual, non-religious and spent his time drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis. 

Yassine Sebaihia was sentenced to eight years after he had crossed France to join one of the attackers for “religion lessons.”

The most significant sentence was handed to the absent defendant: Rachid Kassim. A Frenchman and a notorious Islamic State recruiter, he was sentenced to life in prison. Kassim, believed to have been killed in a drone strike in 2017 in Iraq, is suspected of using social media to encourage the attack on the priest. Kassim had already received a life sentence in absentia in 2019 for having ordered a failed attack near Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen said in a statement: “Justice was served. … (the court) had to convict these men for the good of society.”

It was one of several trials over a string of Islamic State-related attacks on France. An investigation is still underway into the worst of them: the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015, which killed 130 people in the Bataclan theatre, national stadium and multiple cafes.

(Via AP)

Compiled by Raju Hasmukh

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