Children as young as eight are under investigation by French police on suspicion of supporting terrorism, due to comments made during memorial services for the teacher beheaded by an Islamic terrorist last month, officials said.
On Thursday a 14-year-old boy of Afghan origin in Marseille became the latest of a string of students to be indicted over remarks made during Monday’s nationwide minute’s silence for Samuel Paty, who was killed on October 16.
Days before his murder, the 47-year-old history and geography teacher had shown students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a debate about free speech – a move that sparked backlash online, including among parents.
Marseille prosecutors said the accused teenager welcomed the attack on Paty, claiming he “would have done the same.” A magistrate confirmed that the boy had been placed under “supervision,” with a “judicial measure of educational investigation.”
The prosecution requested that the teen be banned from attending school, as well as from having contact with other students and his teacher.
Since the start of the school year on Monday there have been seven similar incidents in the Aix-Marseille region alone, including three reported to police that were considered to be showing support for terrorist acts.
Across France, some 66 inquiries have been opened into alleged support of terrorism following alerts sent to France’s online extremism watchdog Pharos in the three weeks since Paty’s death, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.
“The questioning [into alleged support for terrorism] often involves young people, aged 12 to 16, who have used extremely repugnant language,” said Darmanin. He added that comments were often “inspired by the Islamic State group, which is very worrying.”
A social welfare inquiry was also opened into two kids, aged eight and nine, in relation to comments made over the controversial Mohammed cartoons, according to prosecutors in Strasbourg. Two other children in the French border city, both aged 12, are also now under investigation for allegedly claiming that Paty deserved to die for showing students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Another boy, aged 15, was arrested near Lyon after reportedly threatening to “cut off his teacher’s head” during Monday’s day of homage to Paty.
At least six students aged 11 to 16 “defended terrorism” on Monday and were either sanctioned in school or dealt with by police, according to a report in Le Parisien.
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