The trial of the deadly January 2015 terrorist attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers and a kosher supermarket opens in a Paris court Wednesday after five years of investigations and a delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fourteen suspects will be tried during proceedings that will be filmed and feature victim testimonies.

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More than five years after a three-day killing spree in the Paris area that claimed 17 lives – including some of Frances leading cartoonists – victims of the January 2015 attacks and their loved ones will finally face suspects during a special terror trial.

Over the next few months, 14 suspects – including three in absentia who may be dead – will be tried at a courthouse in northwest Paris amid tight security.

The suspects are being tried for assisting in terror attacks, including supplying weapons and financing to three jihadists who were killed shortly after the attacks.

The hearings are set to reopen a traumatic chapter in contemporary French history, which started on January 7, 2015, when two brothers – Saïd and Chérif Kouachi – stormed into Charlie Hebdos Paris offices, killing 12 people, including a police officer outside the premises.

The assault ushered three days of bloodshed that ended when Amedy Coulibaly, a friend of the Kouachi brothers, was killed after attacking a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

The trial was scheduled to start before the summer, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will accommodate fewer observers in the court room due to social distancing measures.

It will be one of only a dozen trials to be filmed in France due to the judicial importance and “emotion stirred” by the attacks, which “profoundly marked the history of national and international terrorism”, according to anti-terrorist prosecutors.

The January 2015 attacks triggered a rallying of national unity encapsulated by the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan. It also heralded a wave of Islamist violence that year and raised unsettling questions about modern France's ability to preserve security and harmony in a multicultural society.

While the trial is immensely important, it could also be traumatic, with the proceedings including statements and testimonies from survivors and loved ones of victims who have waited more than five years for justice. “This is completely new: the first few weeks of this trial will be devoted to the victims' words," explained anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-François Ricard in an interview with France Info radio on Monday. "They will be able to explain, question, try to understand, and that is fundamental."

Charlie Hebdo republishes Prophet Mohammed cartoons

Accredited journalists from 90 national and foreign news organisations will be reporting on the trial. French cartoonist François Boucq and writer Yannick Haenel will be covering the trial for Charlie Hebdo, posting daily reports on the magazines website on the progress of a trial in which "we are not just witnesses", as Editor-in-Chief Gérard Biard explained to AFP.

Charlie Hebdos cover on Wednesday, marking the start of the trial, features republished Prophet Mohammed cartoons that were originally published by Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in 2005, and then reprinted by the French satirical weekly in 2006, unleashing a storm of anger and blasphemy charges across the Muslim world.

The controversial drawings “belong to history, and history cannot be rewritten nor erased”, the satirical weekly said Tuesday.

In the centre of the cover is a cartoon of the prophet drawn by its cartoonist Jean Cabut, known as Cabu, who was killed in the January 2015 attack.

"All of this, just for that," the front-page headline says.

The magazines editorial maintained it was the right time to republish the cartoons, saying it was "essential" as the trial opens.

"We have often been asked since January 2015 to print other caricatures of Mohammed," it said.

"We have always refused to do so, not because it is prohibited – the law allows us to do so – but because there was a need for a good reason to do it, a reason which has meaning and which brings something to the debate."

Suspects fleeing and likely dead in IS groups caliphate

On Wednesday, in a court room on the second floor of the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris, selected for its size and large plexiglass boxes suitable for trials with multiple defendants, the accused are expected to face questioning.

Of the 14 suspects, three defendants – Hayat Boumeddiene, Mohamed Belhoucine and his brother Mehdi Belhoucine – will be absent from the hearing.

Of the three, Boumeddiene – Coulibalys partner – is perhaps the most notorious and best known. She was dubbed “Frances most-wanted woman” following the kosher supermarket attack, when investigators issued an arrest warrant and launched a manhunt for the dark-haired woman described as “armed and extremely dangerous”.

Boumeddiene fled to Syria via Turkey days before the January 7, 2015, Charlie Hebdo attack with Mehdi Belhoucine and was probably immediately followed by Mohamed Belhoucine, according to prosecutors.

She then featured in a February 2015 issue of an Islamic State (IS) group magazine, where she confirmed she had entered the “caliphate” – the term used for the territory then controlled by the jihadist group.

Coulibaly declared his allegiance to the IS group in a pre-recorded video published online days after the Paris attacks. Mohamed Belhoucine is considered Coulibalys mentor and is believed to have written the attackers “oath of allegiance” to the IS group.

The Belhoucine brothers are facing criminal imprisonment although they are believed to have died on the battlegrounds in Syria and Iraq in 2016, according to French intelligence services. Their parents have received messages from IS group fighters notifying them of their sons deaths.

While Coulibaly said he was a member of the IS group, the Charlie Hebdo attack was claimed by the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which said the timings of the attacks by Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers was Read More – Source