Sept. 2 (UPI) — The long-awaited trial of 14 people accused of aiding in the deadly 2015 terrorist attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo began Wednesday in a Paris courtroom, amid high security.
Eleven of the defendants were present when the trial opened at the Court of Assize, where they face terror-related charges of giving logistical support to the main perpetrators — brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi and accomplice Amedy Coulibaly.
A total of 17 people were killed, including 12 at the magazine in the Jan. 7, 2015 attack. Four died while being held hostage two days later at a supermarket in the eastern Paris suburb of Porte de Vincennes.
Coulibaly, who police say also killed a policewoman, was shot dead when officers stormed the market. The Kouachi brothers were killed by police in another operation the same day.
The trial was originally set to begin in early summer but was delayed by COVID-19. With 200 parties to the proceedings and 150 witnesses, it’s expected to last for months.
As the trial opened, the defendants arrived one by one Wednesday escorted by masked police officers and were seated in boxes surrounded by bulletproof glass.
Emotions ran high as court officials began with a description of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Cries were heard and the mother of killed cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier left the courtroom.
Three of the defendants are being tried in absentia, including Hayat Boumedienne, Amedy Coulibaly’s wife who’s believed to be living in Syria. Two others, brothers Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine, are believed to have been killed four years ago fighting for the Islamic State in Syria.
Before the trial, Charlie Hebdo republished the same cartoons depicting the Islamic Prophet Muhammad that prompted the 2015 attack, writing that it’s “unacceptable” to start the trial without showing the evidence to the public.
Turkey condemned the decision to rerun the cartoon as insulting and disrespectful, but French President Emmanuel Macron defended what he called the “freedom to blaspheme, which is linked to freedom of conscience.”