France

Student admits to lying over claims of Islamophobia against beheaded teacher

Students return to the the Bois d'Aulne middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine after Paty's murder in October 2020.
Students return to the the Bois d'Aulne middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine after Paty's murder in October 2020. © Thomas Coex/AP

The student who accused history teacher Samuel Paty of Islamophobia, which began a hate campaign that lead to his brutal public beheading in October, has admitted to making up her story.

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The 13-year-old did not attend class on the day that Samuel Paty allegedly asked Muslim students to leave the room in order to show caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed from satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

Identified as "Z", the girl admitted to investigators that she was not in class on 6 October during the lesson on freedom of expression.

She had initially said that Paty had asked her and other Muslim students to leave the classroom before he showed the images. She claimed that she was suspended for two days because she accused him of Islamophobia.

Other students in the classroom testified that Paty had not asked anyone to leave, but instead had suggested that anyone who might be shocked should close their eyes.

According to Le Parisien newspaper, the student had been suspended for two days, the day before Paty showed the caricatures. Accused of "slanderous denunciation" of Paty, she confessed to investigators that she had lied, and had only heard about the caricatures from a friend.

Seeking father's approval

The student agreed when investigators suggested that maybe she was afraid to tell her father about her suspension from school, and had made up the story to not disappoint him.

Her father, Brahim Chnina posted outraged videos and launched an online campaign against Paty, based on what his daughter had told him about what had allegedly happened in class. His videos reached and galvanised Abdullakh Anzorov, the 18-year-old who stalked Paty and beheaded him in a street near the school.

“If I had not said that to my father, none of this would have happened and it would not have spread so fast,” the student told the anti-terrorism judge.

Her lawyer, Mbeko Tabula, insisted that the student should not carry the blame for Paty’s murder.

“It is the excessive behaviour of the father who recorded and posted a video blaming the teacher that lead to this chain of events,” he said. “My client lied, but even if it were true, the reaction of her father would have been equally disproportionate.”

Chnina had compared Paty to Hitler, and insisted that he be fired. He and prominent radical Islamist Abdelhakim Sefrioui, who was involved in the campaign, have been charged with complicity in the murder.

He has since shifted his stance. In a hearing in January he said he had gone online not because he wanted to hurt Paty, but because he was angry about his daughter’s suspension.

“I regret the scale of the damage,” he said, saying he regretted not checking his daughter’s version of what happened.

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