On 16 October 2020, college teacher Samuel Paty was killed by an 18-years old Abdullakh Anzorov in France, after he showed his students a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo during a free speech class, reported Le Monde. After the attack, the murderer was killed by the police and seven people have been detained and indicted on charge of “complicity in terrorist murder”.
“Freemuse condemns the murder of Samuel Paty, who aspired to educate his students on the notion of free speech. We call on the French authorities to ensure safety to artistic freedom educators and defenders,” said Dr Srirak Plipat, Freemuse Executive Director, “We are concerned that obstacles to freedom of artistic expression begin to impact teachers. We urge the French authority to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
According to Le Monde, Anzorov beheaded Samuel Paty on 16 October in front of the college in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and was afterwards shot nine times by the police.
Samuel Paty believed in the power of education to open minds https://t.co/JOYRIohkjW
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) October 29, 2020
The murder was a reaction to Paty’s teaching on 5 and 6 October, when he showed two cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, which appeared in Charlie Hebdo, to his students. This was part of a civic education and awareness course on freedom of expression. Muslim students were allowed to leave the class to prevent shock.
The day after, the father of a student posted a video on Facebook, in which he claims that besides the images of the Prophet, the teacher allegedly shared images of someone naked. The father of a student, together with the Islamist activist Abdelhakim Sefrioui, filed a complaint to the police against Paty for alleged “disseminating pornographic images”. Meanwhile, another video was posted on Facebook with more details on the situation. This time, the name of Samuel Paty and the college he taught in are mentioned.
Paty was called to the police station on 12 October, where he showed all the documents he presented in class. As a response to the Sefrioui’s accusations, Paty filed a defamation complaint.
Le Monde reports that the father of a student who filled a complaint against the teacher, Brahim C., and Islamist activist Abdelhakim Sefrioui have been charged with “complicity in terrorist murder”. Two schoolchildren who allegedly pointed Samuel Paty to Anzorov and three acquaintances of the killer who reportedly helped him buy the murder weapon and drove him to the college have also been indicted with the same charge.
Samuel Paty’s murder led to the national tribute organised on 21 October near the Sorbonne University.
Freemuse calls for the French authorities to ensure safety to artistic freedom educators and defenders to share their knowledge and educate on topics such as freedom of expression and freedom of artistic expression.