Charlie Hebdo republishes controversial cartoon ahead of first trial for 2015 terror attacks

The French satirical paper, Charlie Hebdo, whose offices in Paris were attacked by Islamic extremists in 2015 is reprinting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad cited by the killers, saying “history cannot be rewritten nor erased.”

The announcement on Tuesday came on the eve of the first trial for the January 2015 attacks against Charlie Hebdo and, two days later, a kosher supermarket.

Seventeen people died in the attacks — 12 of them at the editorial offices — along with all three attackers.

Thirteen men and a woman accused of providing the attackers with weapons and logistics go on trial Wednesday.

A glass box is seen in a courtroom where the trial of the shooting at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket will take place in Paris. (Michel Euler/The Associated Press)

In an editorial accompanying the caricatures, the paper best known for vulgar irreverence said that although it had declined to publish caricatures of Muhammad since the attacks, doing so for the opening of the trial was necessary.

“The only reasons not to stem from political or journalistic cowardice,” the editorial said.

The attackers, French-born brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, claimed the attacks in the name of al-Qaeda. As they left the scene at Charlie Hebdo, they killed a wounded police officer and drove away.

Two days later, an acquaintance of theirs stormed a kosher supermarket on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, killing four hostages and claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group (ISIS). The supermarket attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, also killed a young female police officer.

People look at flowers and messages near the statue at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France on Jan. 6, 2016. The messages were paying tribute to the victims of Paris terror attacks in January and November of 2015. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

The caricatures re-published this week were first printed in 2006 by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, setting off sometimes violent protests by Muslims who believe depicting Muhammad is blasphemy. Charlie Hebdo, which was then little-known outside France and regularly caricatures religious leaders from various faiths, republished them soon afterwards.

The paper’s Paris offices were firebombed in 2011 and its editorial leadership placed under police protection, which remains in place to this day.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday it was not his place to pass judgment on the decision by the satirical magazine, saying France has freedom of expression.

Laurent Sourisseau, the paper’s director and one of the few staff to have survived the attack, named each of the victims in a foreword to this week’s edition.

“Rare are those who, five years later, dare oppose the demands that are still so pressing from religions in general, and some in particular,” wrote Sourisseau.

Three of the accused, including the wife of one of the attackers, will not be at the trial because they are abroad and it’s not known if they’re alive or dead.

Most of the 11 who will appear in court say they knew it was for a crime but claim they had no idea it was for mass killings.

A man holds a placard reading, ‘I am Charlie’ in January 2017 as Parisians marked the two-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. (Ian Langsdon/EPA)

Among those inside the market was Lassana Bathily, an employee who hid a group of the store’s Jewish customers in a cold room and slipped out to warn police about the terror attack inside. Eleven days later, he was granted French citizenship. He is among nearly 200 plaintiffs at the trial.

The world rallied behind France in the days after the killings. Leaders from around the world joined millions of people who poured into Paris’ enormous Republique plaza and other gathering spots in France bearing defiant signs that read “I am Charlie.”

The trial will be filmed for posterity, a rarity in France reserved for proceedings of historical import.


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