14 Suspected Accomplices Of The 'Charlie Hebdo' Attacks Go On Trial
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Today in Paris, the trial began for 14 people accused of helping gunmen attacked the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. Twelve people were killed. Another five were killed in an attack on a kosher supermarket. The assailants are dead, but authorities say they did not act alone, as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.
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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking French).
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: French media are reliving those three terror-filled days in January 2015 that began when Cherif and Said Kouachi, two brothers, stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo. They killed 10 journalists, a security guard and a police officer before escaping in their car. With a manhunt underway, another avowed Islamist radical, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a police officer before taking hostages and killing four more people inside a kosher supermarket. Lassana Bathily worked in that supermarket and helped save people by hiding them in a walk-in freezer. He told French television he still hasn't fully recovered from the ordeal.
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LASSANA BATHILY: (Through interpreter) We need the truth and justice this trial would bring. We have been waiting five years for it. Without it, we cannot overcome this trauma and rebuild our lives normally.
BEARDSLEY: Prosecutors say 14 people helped Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers by raising funds, providing vehicles, safe apartments and taking care of other logistics. Eleven of the accused were present in the packed courtroom. Ten have been incarcerated since before the attacks. Three others are being tried in absentia. Charlie Hebdo is no longer in its offices in the east of Paris. Today there is a plaque on the wall outside with the names of those slain. Michel Soubise is walking by.
MICHEL SOUBISE: (Speaking French).
BEARDSLEY: "This trial is going to take us back to this terrible time, but it's important to go through," he says. "It's just too bad some of the terrorists are missing." Charlie Hebdo says it will never be cowed. And to mark the trial's opening, it published a special edition and reprinted many of the caricatures of Muhammad that have aggrieved many Muslims and inflamed the terrorists. The president of France's large Muslim community urged people to ignore the caricatures and think only of the victims. A few blocks from the Charlie Hebdo memorial is another plaque, this one to the Muslim officer, Ahmed Merabet, who was shot at point-blank range when he tried to stop the Kouachis.
MELANIE RICCIO: (Speaking French).
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking French).
RICCIO: (Speaking French).
BEARDSLEY: Melanie Riccio is walking by the old Charlie Hebdo offices with her kids.
RICCIO: Every day, I walk here. Every day, I think of it. Every day, I look at the first floor, and it's still painful for me.
BEARDSLEY: But she admits if she didn't live in this neighborhood, she would never think about it. She says the country is now under a new threat - the coronavirus - and the attacks of 2015 somehow seem a lifetime away.
Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.
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