The right to say and the right to gainsay. The case of Abelhakim Sefrioui and freedom of expression.

   The death of Samuel Paty on October 16, 2020 at the Bois d’Aulne middle school’s exit in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where he taught history and geography, shocked the entire French nation. Murdered in a barbaric manner by the terrorist Abdoullakh Anzorov who punctuated his crime with the striking and odious act of beheading, Samuel Paty leaves behind a grieving family and a society plagued by deep questions. Among them, the sensitive question of freedom of expression.

   Indicted for complicity in a terrorist assassination, Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s name and face made the rounds of all the French media. He was quickly presented as a key figure[1][2][3] in the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine terrorist attack. But what is the real implication of this man in the affair of the controversy that arose around Samuel Paty’s course? This question arises with even more insistence considering how one could feel that the media talked more about him than about the terrorist himself, Abdullakh Anzorov.

Abdelhakim Sefrioui

   Almost entirely unknown to the general public and ignored by the media until then, Abdelhakim Sefrioui, whose militant commitment dates back to the early 1980s, quickly found himself at the heart of a media lynching campaign. From a virtually silent media coverage regarding his activism, to the most prolix and sometimes defamatory speech, and going through the complete palette of qualifiers never made explicit such as “islamist”, “salafist”, “radicalized”, “filed S” and others still, it was his presumption of innocence that was immediately denied. He emerged as the ideal culprit of a crime in which he did not participate, however, and to which he never called, neither by his wishes nor by his concrete and factually reconstructable acts, nor even implicitly.

   While the time for mourning and tribute to the late professor has been duly respected, and while Abdelhakim Sefrioui has been in solitary confinement since October 21, it seems important to reconstruct the facts concerning his involvement in this affair. This is precisely the goal that we propose in this investigation. It has the particularity and the quality of being based solely on the cross-checking of information available in the national media, controversial videos at the heart of the case and statements by anti-terrorism prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard. Thus, this investigation is intended to be as objective as possible and aims to make it possible to conclude with confidence in the conclusion of the merits or lack thereof of the accusation of Abdelhakim Sefrioui for complicity in a terrorist assassination, one of the heaviest charges in our society.

To those who may not read this entirely, here is a summary of what the reader will find as duly sourced information upon reading this dossier.

   Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement in the controversy surrounding Professor Samuel Paty’s course rests only on two aspects. The first is trivial and consisted in accompanying on October 8, 2020 Brahim C., the father of the schoolgirl through whom the controversy started, to his meeting with the school administration to expose his complaints about Samuel Paty’s course. School management agreed to receive Abdelhakim Sefrioui with full knowledge of the facts and in his capacity as a member of the board of the Council of Imams of France. The meeting went smoothly and resulted in a status quo between management who supported their teacher, and Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui who requested a disciplinary sanction. Management, however, passed the information on the matter to the academy, which opened an investigation into the events described.

   Secondly, and this is what Abdelhakim Sefrioui is accused of, the having produced and published on October 11 a video relating to this controversy. A detailed analysis of it, its sequences, its content and the comments made therein, will show that it is in reality trivial with regard to the count of complicity in a terrorist assassination that is being weighed on the person concerned. This video includes in fact several aspects: a relaying of information, a political denunciation, the promotion of child protection, and finally, a call for legal action and mobilization.

   The removal of the video by the interested party out of respect for the deceased and in the face of the gravity of the moment has fueled much speculation on its contents. However, exposed, it does not reveal any illegal element, nor does it call for any form of violence and even less so to murder. Despite the amalgamations maintained for a time by the investigation and by the media, Abdelhakim Sefrioui never mentioned the name of the late professor to anyone. Likewise, he never came into contact in any way with the terrorist Abdullakh Anzorov.

   Moreover, while the anti-terrorism prosecutor immediately reported a supposed lie from the schoolgirl regarding the reality of her participation in the controversial course given by Mr. Paty, and while the media were already ruling on this point, a certain number of convincing elements revealed by these same media show elements contributing to prove that, in addition to the question of Z.’s participation in this course, we can legitimately believe in the reality of a segregation device around the broadcast of these cartoons, distinguishing Muslim students from non-Muslim ones. As well as it has been found that among the cartoons exhibited by Samuel Paty, some can legitimately be considered shocking and bordering on pornography.

   Insisting on Z.’s supposed lie had the consequence of delegitimizing Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement in this affair, and tipping it into the realm of irrationality and guilt. However, beyond the case of Z., it was the substance and the principles that motivated Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s commitment. Likewise, despite an insistence made shortly after the death of Samuel Paty on the fact that he was absolutely and unfailingly supported by the institution on the subject of the controversy, it is nevertheless well established that he was the subject of a reminder on the rules of secularism and neutrality.

   In addition, it is now clear that the protest by Brahim C., and Abdelhakim Sefrioui following him, is completely independent of the terrorist act of Anzorov, who is the only one to have instigated his crime and to have committed it. This with the help of possible accomplices that it will be the responsibility of the judicial investigation to identify. Anzorov opportunistically used the information about this controversy to accomplish his crime which Abdelhakim Sefrioui could not have known of or even imagined.

   However, several objective elements that should be analyzed with great care show that the intelligence services were technically able to identify the already constituted threat posed by Anzorov, whose radicalization and whose will to kill operated clearly upstream of the beginning of the controversy around Mr. Paty’s class course. Intelligence agents are already admitting some very unfortunate failures that should have been avoided so as to allow Paty to be protected from the threat posed by Anzorov.

   These same intelligence services learned early on about Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement in the controversy over Mr. Paty’s course. Already closely watched for his long-standing activism, Abdelhakim Sefrioui was once again the subject of special attention. A note from the Yvelines territorial intelligence published on October 12 that was subsequently sent to the DGSI clearly states that his involvement and its components have in no way been identified as a threat. Yet, after the assassination of Samuel Paty, Abdelhakim Sefrioui would be named as the perfect scapegoat for a case in which the terrorist is dead and can no longer answer for his actions.

   Choosing between either official recognition of the intelligence’s failure, or the enlistment of Abdelhakim Sefrioui in the legal and media spiral, the choice was quickly made. A choice that anyone is free to assess. A choice that has somehow made it possible to provide a tragedy-shaken nation with the figure of a designated culprit on which to project its fright and anger.

   Following is the detailed development of these main lines.

Meeting with the school management of the Bois d’Aulne middle school

   In this case, Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement comes down to two factual aspects. On the one hand, the act of accompaniying Brahim C., the father of the schoolgirl through whom the controversy started, on October 8 to his meeting with the management of the Bois d’Aulne middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, and on the other hand, the production and publication of an informative and activist video, published on YouTube on October 11, 2020.

   Although this aspect is absolutely not a fact alleged against Abdelhakim Sefrioui in the investigation, and it isn’t of any criminal nature, the media having extensively mentioned it makes it important to reconstruct and detail it.

   On October 7, 2020, Abdelhakim Sefrioui becomes aware of the testimony of Brahim C., who reports that his daughter, a 13 year-old middle school student in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, suffered an incident during her history class. This message was disseminated through several social networks, namely Facebook, Whatsapp and by text message. Here is the message in question, taken from a post on Brahim C.’s Facebook account:

Screenshot of the first message relayed by Brahim C. on October 7 on his Facebook page about the controversy over Mr. Paty’s course. This message was also broadcast through WhatsApp.

   Upon taking note of the message (most likely via Whatsapp or text message), Abdelhakim Sefrioui decides to call Brahim C. to verify the information. The man gives confirmation that this message indeed comes from him and confirms the account of the message. Demonstrating his intention to meet with the school management to ask for an explanation about this incident, Abdelhakim Sefrioui offers to accompany him in doing so.

   They meet the next morning, on Thursday 8, October, in front of the Bois d’Aulne middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. This meeting with the school management constitutes the only visit made by Abdelhakim Sefrioui on site in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, contrary to what has been implied in certain articles[4]. He himself mentions this meeting, twice, in his video published on October 11.

In the first clip of his video, he films the front door of the facility saying (and this is the entire video clip):

“ Assalamou ‘alaykoum. We are in front of the Bois d’Aulne middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where the abject has taken place again. This week we have quite simply witnessed the answer of a thug of a teacher to the call from the President of the Republic to hate Muslims, to fight Muslims, to stigmatize Muslims (speech on the bill against separatism, editor’s note). We’ve been waiting here in the cold for 45 minutes, because the principal, supposedly, is in a meeting. They didn’t even allow us to enter the lobby. Anyway, it’s been 45 minutes.

In the other sequence of his video, where he speaks in front of the camera, on a later day and in a location other than Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, he says (and this is the start of this other video sequence):

« We went, with Ibrahim the father of the little Z., and I on behalf of the Council of Imams of France, to see the administration of the school. So as I had said in front of the school, there was already a lack of respect in making us wait for an hour in the cold and wind. Once we were admitted inside, the seriousness of the matter was explained. But that didn’t seem to shock the principal or the staff otherwise. Apparently they knew about it. And that it was something that had been done for the past 5-6 years. Children aged 12-13, Muslims, have been shocked, attacked and humiliated in front of their peers for 5-6 years. Because that’s what they told us, those with whom we spoke (the students, editor’s note). And that’s apparently not a problem.

So we expressed our disagreement and our, I mean, amazement that the administration could know this and tolerate it. In fact, we were even told it was on the school program’s website. So we let them know one thing, and that is that we, the Council of Imams of France, and Muslims in France categorically reject this kind of irresponsible and aggressive behavior that does not respect the right of these children to have, and to keep their psychological integrity. So we demanded, we said that we demanded the immediate suspension of this thug, because that is not a teacher, a teacher is something else, it is a very noble occupation. Which is the case for a great deal of teachers who respect their work, who respect the purpose of their work.

Only at the end of our interview, we realized that there wasn’t going to be anything done by the school. We were told that. But she let us know that she was going to notify it up to hierarchy.

   The meeting is therefore mentioned by the person in question, which resulted in a status quo in which positions did not converge. Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui for their part claiming a disciplinary sanction, and the school management remaining insensitive to this request and supporting their teacher. However, management did pass on the information, so that Brahim C. ended up being contacted by the academic inspectorate[5] later that day on October 8.

   In excerpts from his hearing, published by Le Parisien[6], Brahim C. said of this meeting with management: “She told us about freedom of expression. I replied that freedom of expression is not to separate students.  He adds: “School management was not clear, they didn’t talk about the history class […] She told me that my daughter was often late, and insolent. I told her I wasn’t made aware of that. That two days, if she was insolent, was not enough.

   It should be noted that this meeting with management was not the subject of any incident. Abdelhakim Sefrioui introduced himself in his capacity as a member of the bureau of the Council of Imams of France. Despite what has been reported in some media, Abdelhakim Sefrioui did not present himself as « responsible for the imams of France », but as a member of the board of an association called the Council of Imams of France. Management therefore agreed to receive him with full knowledge of the facts.

   Despite a divergence in views, the meeting ended quite normally. The principal did not file a complaint about what was just a normal encounter. Apart from some value judgments conveyed in certain articles[7] on the virulence attributed to Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui in expressing their request for disciplinary sanction, this meeting is trivial from the point of view of its progress. Eight days would elapse between this meeting and the attack by the terrorist Anzorov without this meeting giving rise to any follow-up other than the intervention of the academic inspectorate, following what school management had committed to doing towards the two men, by bringing the information up to hierarchy.

   Finally, it should be noted that the content of the meeting as well as the discussions with school management must obviously have led Abdelhakim Sefrioui to think that the facts described by Brahim C. and his daughter Z. seemed credible and corroborated. So that a few days later, he would publish a video on the issue of this controversial course.

The video posted by Abdelhakim Sefrioui

   The second part of Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement pertains to his video that appeared on YouTube on October 11 at around 11:50 p.m. This was to be withdrawn by the person concerned on the evening of October 16, following the tragedy, and out of respect for the victim as well as in the face of the gravity of the moment.

   It should be noted that the removal of the video was to the detriment of Abdelhakim Sefrioui, as a lot of speculation rose about it. Some have mixed it with a mythological vocabulary, qualifying it as a « fatwa », a notion completely irrelevant for what consisted only in the expression of an opinion and a simple relay of information. These terms were nevertheless used on purpose, meaning to imply by « fatwa » the defamatory notion of the death penalty. This is particularly and surprisingly the case of one of the highest representatives of the State, in the person of the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, who says about Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui: « they obviously have launched a fatwa against this professor” [8].

   Such remarks directly imply two assertions: one is that these two men knowingly undertook this protest in order to achieve the result of the assassination of Professor Samuel Paty. The other is that the content of their involvement in this case is unlawful in nature and constitutes a concrete appeal, a proven way to achieve this result. At this stage of the investigation and at the very premature moment when such remarks were made, they explicitly constitute a flouting of the presumption of innocence, since no reservations have moderated these remarks. Likewise regarding the words of the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron, during his statement of October 20, 2020 from the Bobigny prefecture, announcing the dissolution of the Collectif Cheikh Yassine, which according to him was « directly involved in the attack »[9]. Such statements directly challenge, in addition to the presumption of innocence, the equally important question, if not more so, of the separation of powers. As well as the dissolution, which took place under conditions in which the interested party Abdelhakim Sefrioui is deprived of speech in detention, again constitutes a very frank attack on the presumption of innocence. It is also interesting to point out that he never adressed at any time this controversy under the label of the Collectif Cheikh Yassine.

   In any case, this video posted by Abdelhakim Sefrioui, lasting 10 minutes and 9 seconds, consists of four separate sequences.

  1. The first one, which was already mentioned before, consists in a showing of the Bois d’Aulne middle school’s entrance door, in the moments preceding the meeting with the school administration. This short sequence lasts about 40 seconds.
  2. The second one, lasting about 1 minute and 48 seconds, consists in the testimony of schoolgirl Z., filmed in such a way that her face cannot be seen. She narrates her version of the controversial sequence of Mr. Paty’s course. She also expresses her feeling of being discriminated against caused by the events.
  3. The third segment, lasting 2 minutes and 23 seconds, consists in a video of Brahim C., as he first posted it on his Facebook account on October 8. In this video, speaking calmly, he plainly describes his side of the story and his disillusioned and hurt feelings about the situation. There is no mention of Mr. Paty’s name. He calls on people to contact him, in a process that seems to consist in seeking help around the problem he is encountering. It is specifically addressed to other parents of students at the very end of the video.
  4. The fourth and last sequence, also already mentioned, lasts about 4 minutes. This was taken up by the media and widely spread on social networks[10] but in a partial and amputated manner. In the version of this sequence relayed on social networks, only 2 minutes and 20 seconds of the intervention are present. This does not seem trivial, as the rest of the sequence is what makes it possible to put this intervention back into a larger unity of meaning: that of denouncing the prevailing Islamophobia, and the theme of children’s rights and psychological violence that such content represents for children, as do such devices of differentiation between students who are Muslims from those who are not.
Screenshot of the 4 sequences in the video posted by Abdelhakim Sefrioui.

In terms of content, Mr. Sefrioui’s video thus contains several aspects :

  • An information-relaying aspect:

   That of the testimony of schoolgirl Z., and that of her father Brahim C.

Regardless of the question pertaining to the veracity of the facts exposed by Z. and her father, a question that is to be determined by the current investigation, it is indeed the matter of a simple collection and relay of information, a testimony of facts. Just as when Abdelhakim Sefrioui presents his summary of the meeting with the school administration, he shares information with the public. It is to be observed that all of these remarks contain no call for murder.

  • An aspect of political denunciation:

   In the first segment of the video, Abdelhakim Sefrioui expresses the link he establishes between the controversy surrounding Mr. Paty’s course and the national political context, in particular the very recent speech by Emmanuel Macron on the fight against separatism, delivered at Les Mureaux on October 2, 2020[11]. This speech had aroused a stir within the Muslim community. Many people and works of analysis worried about the amalgamations that were upheld and about the abuses to which this discourse and the measures it aimed at could lead to. These fears emanated from France as well as from foreign observers. They have only strengthened following the repressive and discriminatory measures taken by the government in response to the attacks in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and Nice.

   However, in view of the way in which the President has handled his communication on the question of Islam in recent weeks, and in view of the way in which one can surmise he seems not to have appreciated that his policy was described in certain terms[12], one can infer that he took the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine file and Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s statements as being aimed particularly at him. A likely reason which led him to make remarks that were hasty, to say the least, evoking a “direct implication” of Abdelhakim Sefrioui in the attack of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, questioning, like his Prime Minister, the presumption of innocence.

   Likewise, Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s point of entry into this protest initiated by Brahim C. does not consist so much in the distribution of the cartoons by Mr. Paty, so much as his way of doing so, described by Z. and her father as the separation of Muslim students from those non-Muslim. To him, this device reinforced the intrinsically stigmatizing effect of these cartoons and enshrined the idea that they no longer served reasonably as a credible and reasonable support for the promotion of freedom of expression, but for stigmatization and the differentiation of individuals. By protesting against this diffusion and the segregation device that was described to him, he was protesting in his own way against the perversion made to secularism. In this line, it is also the right to denounce something he perceived to be a manifestation of differentiation and stigmatization of Muslim students, and therefore of what can be described as Islamophobia, that he exercised. We will also observe in this regard that these words contain no call for murder or violence.

  • An aspect highlighting child protection:

   In the sequence spread on social networks and in the media, it is essentially this emphasis on child protection put forward by Abdelhakim Sefrioui that is missing. In this missing part, he denounced what he considered to be a “violation of children’s rights” and “a psychological violence” inflicted on these children by the dissemination of images of an almost pornographic nature, as well as by the system of segregation supposedly implemented around this diffusion. As a result, he called on parents of students in general to be « very vigilant » that their children are not subjected to such violence. One will observe here once again that these words contain no call for murder.

  • An aspect of calling for legal action and mobilization:

   The heart of the matter and of the indictment of Abdelhakim Sefrioui seems to lie in his alleged aim to the terrorist action perpetrated by Anzorov. What specific elements can justify such an accusation? What calls does Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s speech contain in this video? Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s call to action is made up of two parts.

   A first part, which he himself implemented and which ended spontaneously in going to meet the school management to discuss the problem and demand the sanctions he felt were necessary. As we have already discussed, this fact does not pose a problem on the record.

   A second part, expressed in conditional terms, regards the possible organization of gatherings. He said on this subject: « We started from there (from the meeting with the school management, editor’s note) with the firm intention of mobilizing for action in front of the school and in front of the academic inspection.” This man, who is a regular when it comes to rallies duly notified to the authorities, saw this as a means of expressing protest and bringing success to the endeavor. This mode of claim is provided for and guaranteed by law, and moreover it is part of French national culture. In addition, a few days before the tragedy, speaking with a relative about the possibility of a rally in front of the school, Abdelhakim Sefrioui agreed that it could not take place on a school day, but only on a day when the school was closed, merely symbolically and so as not to disturb school life. As he had discussed with others, the alternate idea was to ​​organize a friendly meal open to everyone in the city of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in order to show the true face of Islam, which he considered that Mr. Paty’s course helped to distort and to stigmatize.

   Finally, he recently called on students’ parents to be « vigilant » about the possibility that such supposed situations may happen to their children. As scandalous as it may seem to some that a Muslim person may express a claim on the matter, it is nevertheless the free expression of an opinion, guaranteed by law. In addition, Abdelhakim Sefrioui has taught in the National Education for over ten years, so at the very least he holds anybody else’s legitimacy to express an opinion on the matter.

   Thus, Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s action, the one completed and the one contemplated, consisted only of perfectly legal elements, both in terms of the words chosen and the clear intentions that they conveyed. Those intentions can be corroborated by Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s past actions, which have always fallen strictly within a legal context, despite the re-reading of all of his work in the light of a horrible crime that only Anzorov projected and committed.

  • The controversial aspect in using the term « thug »:

   In view of the unthinkable tragedy experienced by Samuel Paty and the mourning endured by his family, the term “thug”, used on several occasions by Abdelhakim Sefrioui in his video, sounds like a serious offense. This is perfectly understandable. Certain tragic circumstances cannot but grasp the relevance of the failed economy of certain superfluous words. The term thug is certainly part of this dramatic situation. However, no matter what angle one looks from, the term « thug » is nothing more than a banal insult at the lowest level of insults. This term does not contain a call for murder or violence. To say otherwise is like begging the question. It is also incompatible with the consideration of the rest of the words used in his video, just as much as it is incompatible with Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s nature and experiences, he who has never been prosecuted for any act of violence.

   Thus, one must avoid a re-reading of history in hindsight, and instead reinscribe the terms in their context of enunciation. This context merely consists in the vision that Abdelhakim Sefrioui had of a man who had shown students a particularly obscene cartoon, in addition to that doing so by using a supposed segregation device between Muslim students and those not Muslims. Abdelhakim Sefrioui therefore used the term « thug » to describe a person whom he felt had misled his own mission as a teacher by shocking and hurting students. In any case, the term is not loaded with a call for violence, let alone the barbaric assassination that the terrorist Anzorov carried out of his own accord.

   Ultimately, it should be recalled that Abdelhakim Sefrioui never mentioned in any way the name of the late Professor Samuel Paty. He never gave his protest a dimension other than the political one. There has been much confusion in the media on this subject, associating the situation of Abdelhakim Sefrioui with that of Brahim C., who made the unfortunate mistake of disclosing Mr. Paty’s name. The latter seems to have done so in order to allow people who would like to express their dissatisfaction with the competent institutions to contextualise the facts. At his hearing he explains it this way: “I wanted them [people] to be able to verify the truth of the facts. I wanted people to be able to write to the school.[13]  For his part, Abdelhakim Sefrioui raised the subject to the level of principles. For this reason, he did not personally aim at Mr. Paty.

   In any case, and in view of the strange methods that the terrorist had to resort to by enlisting unwitting students in this tragedy, he did not seem to need this information to perpetrate his crime. Prosecutor Ricard himself declared during his conference on October 21: “The investigation established that if the perpetrator had the teacher’s surname, the name and the location of the school, on the other hand he did not have the means allowing him to identify him. However, this identification was only made possible thanks to the intervention of students from the same school.[14]

   In addition, in this press conference, prosecutor Ricard makes mention in a rather vague way of the way in which Brahim C. publicly disclosed Mr. Paty’s name. One would understand from his words that a second video was produced by Brahim C. in which Mr. Paty’s name is mentioned, since his first video of October 8, the one reused by Abdelhakim Sefrioui in his own video, made no mention of this information at all. However, there does not appear to be any trace of a possible second video on Brahim C.’s Facebook page, nor on YouTube. Perhaps it was later deleted. In addition to the video support, the prosecutor also mentions messages written on social networks by Brahim C. containing this information.

   In any case, Abdelhakim Sefrioui never relayed Professor Paty’s name and was not aware of its public disclosure by Brahim C., who also quickly withdrew the messages in question, as described by Prosecutor Ricard in his press conference. This happened notably and manifestly following the advice of individuals interacting with Brahim C. on social networks informing him of the dangerous nature of this disclosure, which he had not initially considered.

   This element is absolutely crucial, given the fact that prosecutor Ricard in his press conference of October 21 gives as the main and palpable cause of the implication of Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui the fact that « the professor was named as a target on social media by the two men, through maneuvering and reinterpretation of the facts.” Yet, « to name » means to give precisely the name of someone. It is clearly established that Abdelhakim Sefrioui did not do so, not even considering the fact that his approach intrinsically did not even make this professor the interlocutor.

   Likewise, contrary to the amalgamation again maintained by the media, Abdelhakim Sefrioui has never been in contact with the terrorist. His phone number being public and widely available, this could nevertheless have been the case, harmlessly, without establishing any liability. These are important facts to remember which Mr. Antoine Alexiev, Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s lawyer sums up well by saying: « My client had no idea what was going to happen, there was no contact between him and the suspected terrorist, nothing even says that Anzorov saw his video”[15].

   Finally, it is interesting to note that during his press conference on October 21 on the progress of the investigation, Jean-François Ricard would mention an element that is not trivial. This was mentionned as a conclusion, after having methodically painted the picture of the elements concerning Abdelhakim Sefrioui and Brahim C. Indeed, he mentioned “three communications between September 9 and 11 from various media organs of Al Qaida or its Yemenite branch” in connection with the publication of the cartoons, calling for “the conduct of terrorist acts in France” and “the murder of those who had been at the origin of the distribution of these cartoons”[16]. The bringing together of media productions from terrorist groups and the mere use of freedom of expression by French citizens is a reach, but it is serious enough to be underlined here.

   This attempt at linking the two is also clearly based on the implicit assumption that Muslims are supposed to be up-to-date on international terrorist news. By citing this piece of information that vitually all Muslims, particularly those in France, have no clue about, the anti-terrorism prosecutor helped instigate the idea that flouted the presumption of innocence in that the protest of Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui, rather than being the use by citizens of their freedom of expression and opinion, consisted in a response to the call of a foreign terrorist group and an allegiance made to it. This amalgamation is dangerous, and by the subtle way in which it is instigated, it is likely to be used with respect to the legal activity of any Muslim.

Did Z., the schoolgirl at the origin of the controversy, lie?

   Very quickly after the tragedy, Jean-Francois Ricard, the anti-terrorism prosecutor with the media in his wake decreed that Z., the middle school student at the origin of the controversy had in fact lied. She would not have actually attended Mr. Paty’s class where the cartoons were shown. The media have insisted a lot on this point, causing the question to shift very clearly from the substance of the case to that of the credibility of the one who had uncovered it.

   The important question was therefore no longer whether the educational approach of showing these cartoons and this supposed device of segregation between Muslim students and others was well founded and in accordance with the law. The issue had become whether Z. was a liar. If that was the case, then the substance of the matter should no longer matter. To this question, Jean-Francois Ricard and the media have already found a definitive answer.

   However, Brahim C.’s lawyer, Mr.Nabil El Ouchikli affirms that there are « elements allowing with certainty the accreditation of an incident linked to the separation of Muslim students from non-Muslims on Monday, October 5 »[17], the day when Z.’s presence during Mr.Paty’s class is not in doubt. To clarify this question of Z.’s presence in this course and its precise content, Mr.El Ouchikli asked for the hearing of all the students of the class concerned.

   Moreover, whether Z. was present or not, a question that the investigation will eventually clarify definitively, the reality of a certain device establishing a separation between the students, and making the content of the course non-inclusive is established by several pieces of evidence.

   First, there is the testimony of the late Mr. Paty. Indeed, following the filing of a complaint by Mr. Brahim C. and his daughter Z., Mr. Paty was heard about this complaint and came to file a defamation complaint himself. In his testimony he said the following: “I suggested that my students look away for a few seconds if they thought they would be shocked for some reason or another. At no time did I tell the students, “Muslims, you can go out because you will be shocked.” And I did not ask the students which ones were of Muslim faith.”[18] Thus, if he denies having identified the Muslim students and having offered them to leave class, Mr. Paty tacitly acknowledged that the content he would broadcast could be offensive to children, and that he knew it at the time. Moreover, if he denied having drawn a distinction between Muslim students and those who were not, it is likely assumed that those who were most likely to be shocked by this cartoon were the Muslim students, who had to go through the difficult experience of seeing their prophet naked, in a degrading and obscene position. Unless Mr. Paty considered the possibility of visual shock only in connection with the issue of nudity, which is moreover presented in an almost pornographic context.

   In addition to Mr. Paty’s admission of the device presented above and which is in itself questionable and open to criticism, other elements make it possible to accredit the reality of a segregationist device between Muslim students and non-Muslim students. Several testimonies from students of the Bois d’Aulne middle school collected by the press relay the proposal that Mr. Paty would have made to the students who could be shocked, to leave the class while the cartoons were shown.

   Among these testimonies, there is one that appeared very early, the very evening of the tragedy. That of Nordine C., in all likelihood the parent of one of Mr. Paty’s students, who had attended the course in which the cartoons were shown. This parent said in front of the camera: « The controversy about how he would have made the Muslim children step outside, my son told me that it was just to preserve them, it was out of sheer kindness, because it was to show a cartoon of the prophet of Islam. He simply told the Muslim students, « Step out I don’t want this to hurt your heart. » That’s what my son told me. They stepped out and that was it. When he got the Muslim students to go out it was not to discriminate against anyone. It was really to preserve them. » [19]

   There is also the testimony of Ludérick, one of Mr. Paty’s students, as related by Libération: “He suggested to the Muslim pupils to leave the class and he showed us an image of naked Mahomet. He explained that it was a caricature. Afterwards, the students came back and wanted to know, but at the time, we didn’t say anything and we resumed lessons as if nothing had happened » [20]

   There is also Pape Bryam’s statement, a middle school student from the Bois d’Aulne who impressed Internet users with his mature expression. In comments expressed in front of the camera[21] and repeated in Paris Match, he declares: “He suggested to the students (Muslims, who could have been shocked by the cartoons, editor’s note) to go out, says the boy. They decided not to go out. He could very well have put the caricature and that’s it. On the contrary, he still showed benevolence”, he deems. He said: “I suggest you go out because it may shock you, mark you”[22].

   A few other testimonies collected by the press relate quite similar elements, in particular from students who had had Mr. Paty as a teacher in past years, as he had presented these caricatures for several years. But above all, there is an element corroborating the reality of this segregationist device in the famous note from the territorial intelligence of Yvelines dated October 12 and revealed first in the newspaper Libération.

   Among other interesting elements, it gives two important pieces of information. First is the testimony of a disabled student’s guide present in the classroom. According to BFMTV who also had access to this note, this guide confirms the reality of the fact that « the teacher then suggested to the students who might have felt offended by this image to « close their eyes or leave the class for a few seconds », while specifying that Mr. Paty « had previously asked if there were students of Muslim faith in the class. »[23] Libération adds the detail that the children who could leave the class would do so « in the presence of a school assistant »[24]. Thus, in any event, this territorial intelligence note concludes that these elements are true.

   A second important element revealed by this note is the case of a student’s parent who “then contacted the principal of the school in tears, reporting that her daughter had been put aside in the hallway on the pretext that she was a Muslim, and that she experienced this situation « as a form of discrimination »”. This information reminds us that while Brahim C. is the only one to have spoken publicly about the situation of this controversial course, several other parents had manifested themselves about the situation with the school management.

   Therefore, in conclusion on this point, whether schoolgirl Z. at the origin of the controversy was in attendence or not to this course, whether she lied or told the truth, the elements already available, upstream of the clarification by the investigation of her personal situation, allow us to affirm several things:

  • Mr. Paty has shown caricatures of Mahomet in his course. Among these caricatures, it is established that he did show the cartoon by designer Coco, which first appeared in 2012 and presented a naked man, on all fours, in a particularly obscene and degrading position, his private parts visible and the anus covered with a yellow star. This cartoon has been described by many as being almost pornographic. It is notably the case of former Minister of National Education Luc Ferry[25]. Likewise, one can very well imagine that it is the police officer in charge of collecting the complaint of Brahim C. who decided to include it in the category « diffusion of pornographic images », this in view of the description of the cartoons by the schoolgirl.
  • The late Mr. Paty likely knew that showing these cartoons could shock. This is the reason why, without acknowledging having carried out the identification of Muslim students, nor acknowledging the fact that he had offered for them to step outside, he admitted to having taken a precautionary measure to bear the offense that he likely knew would hurt the sensitivity of some students, who were logically and in all probability Muslim students.
  • This precautionary measure, in addition to the minimalist and non-discriminatory description that Mr. Paty himself gave during his interview with the police, has been described by several corroborating sources as having consisted in the identification of Muslim students and the offer that was made to them to leave the class or to look away if they wished. Among these sources is the decisive one from the disabled student’s guide, whose testimony was collected by the Yvelines territorial intelligence services.

   But then why insist so much on the alleged absence of Z. in a scenario that seems to have happened anyway? As already mentioned, this insistence on an alleged lie being verified by the investigation has resulted in a significant portion of opinion mechanically refusing to reflect on the merits of the story. Yet it was this background that motivated the protest of Brahim C., Z’s father, and the subsequent intervention of Abdelhakim Sefrioui following the public dissemination of the case by the father. Because beyond the personal case of Z., it was the very idea that such events could have taken place in schools that shocked Brahim C. In light of what he said in his video, his daughter’s alleged confrontation with the events in question seems to have been just an additional emotional factor in his willingness to speak out against what seemed unacceptable to him. In addition, Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement in denouncing this course and the device used for differentiating Muslim students that was described to him were even less linked to Z.’s personal case, even if it is indeed her story that made him aware of the controversy.

   Such insistence on the alleged lie of Z. therefore has had the effect of disqualifying the reflection on the very substance of this course that had served as a medium for the dissemination of these caricatures and for this device of differentiation between Muslim and non-Muslim students. Likewise, it helps surround with a negative halo and rejection those who, like Abdelhakim Sefrioui, have expressed their opinion on this situation and who have called for what they believe to be the disciplinary sanctions that were necessary. This insistence ultimately allows the denunciation to be associated with the idea of ​​irrationality, unfoundedness and illegitimacy. Likewise, one might think that this insistence on designating Z. as a liar in reality hides an implicit, even unconscious but reassuring recognition of the truly shocking nature of the possible facts referred to.

   In spite of this, three weeks after the tragedy and with the settling of facts and emotions, and the return to reason after collective emotion, we hear an increasing number of voices rising to put each aspect of this story back into context. We seem to gradually come to the collected observation that it is quite possible to denounce the barbarity of the terrorist crime of which the late Professor Samuel Paty was the victim, the nameless injustice he suffered, the affirmation of the necessity to fight against terrorism, with the right for free reflection and expression regarding the course given by Mr. Paty and the specific modalities surrounding it.

   Putting aside the question of the intentions which animated this late professor, and without needing to presume that these were negative, this professor having moreover been described by many as endearing and passionate, acts have an element of independent objectivity from the intentions that we put into them. And it is precisely this part of objectivity that freedom of opinion must guarantee the possibility to analyze and judge. The dissemination of cartoons bordering on pornography, bearing on the sacredness of some of the students present, coupled with the differentiation of Muslim and non-Muslim students, in the context of a society that has known the horror of the roundup of the Jews is not trivial. What is more, it can be read in the press that Samuel Paty would have apologized for his clumsiness to his students[26].

Updated on November 28, 2020: An important testimony had escaped us thus far. It is the testimony of a class delegate who testified for BFMTV in a report broadcast on the channel and later uploaded on YouTube on October 28[34]. One of Samuel Paty’s pupils, she attended his class on October 5th. In front of the camera, she said, « So my course, so he introduced it to us by telling us that he would be talking about freedom of the press, freedom of speech. And so we broached the subject of Charlie Hebdo and he showed us some caricatures. He said: “Muslim children if you prefer to go out or or to look away, and if any of you  may be shocked, please step out of the classroom. » »  Further on she would add: « We laughed a little, well, we didn’t necessarily expect that [the images broadcasted, editor’s note]. Then he brought the children in to the class. And then  he told us: “Don’t say anything. Just out of respect for them, don’t describe what was on the cartoons ». “And so, well then we continued the course normally. »

   Despite the multiple elements supporting the confirmation of the facts described by schoolgirl Z., the media nevertheless insist on what they definitely believe to be a lie from her. This was once again the case on the occasion of the young girl’s indictment for « slanderous denunciation » on November 26, 2020. The Francetvinfo site, for example, says about the girl’s complaint at the police station and about her testimony which earned her this indictment: “We know this today, her testimony is a series of lies and untruths. »[35] Yet, once again, while it is possible that Z. did not herself witness these events to which she alerted, everything now suggests that they did indeed took place.

Was the academic inspectorate about to sanction Samuel Paty?

   In line with the above, we cannot ignore the question of the intervention of the academic inspectorate in this file. This intervention did take place. At a minimum, it is proof that the situation was not trivial and deserved examination. As to what the conclusions and consequences of this intervention were, ever since the tragedy, versions have differed on this subject.

   In his video, Abdelhakim Sefrioui recounted the information that Brahim C. had recounted to him and according to which, following their meeting with school management on Thursday, October 8, Brahim C. was contacted by a member of the academic inspection about this controversial course and the grievances relating to it. Abdelhakim Sefrioui mentions this fact in the following way: « in the afternoon (following the meeting with school management, editor’s note), the academic inspectorate contacted the student’s parent and expressed their astonishment to learn what happened in the class of this thug. And that they were going to crack down, that they were going to do something and they were going to send two inspectors. »

   One thing is for certain, and it is that Brahim C. has been contacted by the academic inspectorate. This contact is acknowledged by the rectorate, about which they say on the matter that it had the simple aim to « explain the teacher’s approach for the sake of appeasement »[27]. The investigation should normally have no difficulty in determining the exact content of this call.

   Here again, information and the matter of its veracity carries a strong symbolic stake. Acknowledging that the academic inspection was moving in the direction of a sanctioning measure against Samuel Paty amounts to granting Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s protest additional legitimacy. Although intrinsically consisting in the expression of a legal opinion, this protest, which can be summed up as the formulation of an expectation with regard to the competent authorities, the academic ones, would have been reinforced in its legitimacy by a disciplinary sanction in regard to this professor. To conclude to the contrary, something that a careful investigation must determine, would then go in the opposite direction of a partial delegitimization of this claim.

   It seems that, if not for the deleterious atmosphere, nothing would make scandalous the idea of a sanction for the error represented by the dissemination of these shocking and obscene images, bordering on pornography, in front of middle school age students. Likewise, the hypothesis of a device to differentiate Muslim students from those who are not could be even more punishable.

   Although later versions finally leaned towards the conclusion that Samuel Paty was absolutely and unfailingly supported, the first elements that came out in the press clearly show that at a minimum, « the rules of neutrality and secularism »[28] were reminded to Mr. Paty by an inspector of the academy. This implicitly means that these rules had at least been mishandled by the professor.

   Faced with the uproar caused by the publication of this information at the height of collective emotion, and grasping only too well the political consequences of this information which was inevitably perceived as a concession made to the “Islamists”, Jean-Michel Blanquer did everything to produce a communication leaning in the direction of a denial. And yet, an investigation by the General Inspectorate had been ordered to shed light on this thorny point, as the authorities and the ministry of Jean-Michel Blanquer recognized[29].

   If there is a denial of this, then the intelligence system will have to clearly disown itself from one of its organs, in this instance the Yvelines territorial intelligence and its field agents. The precision of the facts gathered on the field before the terrible assassination which cost Samuel Paty his life, as well as the very nature of territorial intelligence which is to be close to the ground, legitimately suggest that the facts described by this note of October 12 must be true to reality.

   The latest news all but make us see how much this note from the Yvelines territorial intelligence constitutes a particularly thorny point in the file. After having quite simply sought to reduce its scope and value[30] shortly after its publication in the press because of its implications, in particular on the point of the intervention of the academic inspectorate reminding Mr. Paty to order, the government in the person of the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, finally gives it even greater legitimacy and visibility. This, by intervening to summon to the IGPN Willy Le Devin, the Libération journalist at the origin of the publication of extracts from the RT78 note for the facts of « concealment of breach of professional secrecy »[31]. This journalist was therefore heard on November 6 as a suspect. A state of affairs that denotes the context of general emphasis on freedom of expression in which it intervenes.

   In summary regarding this point, we can see that in consonance with the question of the possible lie of Z., the stakes are high as well. Emphasizing the absolute and total support of the academic institution to Samuel Paty, a questionable fact in light of the concrete elements, makes it possible to discredit the intrinsically legal and legitimate claim of Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui in his wake. By extension, such insistence on this allegedly unwavering support, despite the nature of the facts that could legitimately be blamed on the late Samuel Paty, is also intended to defuse and discourage any hint of present or future protests on the part of other parents of pupils with regard to the teachings provided to their children and their unfolding.

Updated on November 18, 2020: New elements published in the press on November 18, 2020[32] reveal a discussion thread via email between various teachers and the school management of the Bois d’Aulne middle school. These exchanges began on October 8, and focused on the controversy surrounding Samuel Paty’s course resting on cartoons. These discussions highlight two important elements. Firstly in this thread the principal, Mrs. F., as well as Samuel Paty explicitly acknowledge that pupils who may have been shocked by these cartoons had been offered to walk out of the classroom. Likewise, Samuel Paty recognizes having shown « a ‘trashy’ cartoon for a few seconds ». In addition in this discussion thread, two teachers very clearly dissociate themselves from Samuel Paty’s decision to show the cartoons and from the method consisting in offering the pupils to walk out or to look away. The words being used denounce what they considered the call into question of secularism, a sign of intolerance and discrimination, and a breach of the bond of trust with the families.

Updated on November 24, 2020: Likewise, new elements published on November 20, 2020 by the magazine Le Point[33] report an exchange of emails between a secularist referent of the Academy of Versailles and the principal of the Bois d’Aulne middle school. In an e-mail dated from October 8, this referent informed the principal that he would be holding an interview with Samuel Paty, which « would focus in particular on the rules of secularism and neutrality that Mr. Paty does not seem to master ». In this email, he would insist again by speaking about « an inaccurate appreciation of secularism and neutrality » on the part of the professor. This email obviously seems to follow the meeting between Brahim C., Abdelhakim Sefrioui and the management of the school, at the end of which the latter undertook to forward information on the grievances brought by the two men. This email tends to render credible the comments made by Abdelhakim Sefrioui in his video, and which relate the phone call received by Brahim C. from a person from the Academy on the day of October 8, following the meeting with the school management. In addition, the article also relates an email dated from October 9 in which the secularity referent of the Academy reports on the interview with Mr. Paty to the management of the school. In that email, the acknowledgment of a mistake and an « unintentional … breach » on the part of Mr. Paty were mentionned. Finally, in these email exchanges, the inspector also suggested that the example of Samuel Paty’s errors be « reported and studied with great interest, so as to produce useful tools and resources for all teachers. »

Was terrorist Anzorov incited to murder by the involvement of Abdelhakim Sefrioui?

   In light of the foregoing, it must be kept in mind that in this case, the contestation of Brahim C., supported in his own way by Abdelhakim Sefrioui, constitutes a part of the case quite distinct from that of the terrorist attack perpetrated by Abdullakh Anzorov. Between these two strands lies a connection, the nature of which is to be determined by the investigation.

   This connection seems to boil down to the fact that the terrorist Anzorov learned of the case through the video and messages posted by Brahim C. from October 8 on his social networks. He did so, as well as thousands of other individuals who have not, in keeping with the normal and foreseeable course of events, made the psychiatrically pathological decision to proceed with a decapitation. Likewise, it now seems established that Anzorov made contact with Brahim C., by contacting him at the telephone number he had publicly made available to people who would like to support him in his process, a process that he intended to be legal, and for those people who would like to ensure of the truth of the facts.

   At this stage of the investigation, the exchanges between Brahim C. and Anzorov do not reveal any element that could allow the former to learn of the latter’s macabre plans. Finally, and ultimately, Brahim C. is criticized for disclosing the name of Professor Samuel Paty, which is arguably considered to have enabled Anzorov to carry out his plan. Conversely then, it should stand that in the absence of this information, Anzorov could not have achieved his goal.

   The investigative evidence of how Anzorov needed to enlist young students, without their undeniable knowledge of his intentions, leaves this syllogism in serious doubt. Today, these students are indicted on the charges of « complicity in a terrorist assassination ».

   In addition to the particular situation of Brahim C., these elements are also important regarding the situation of Abdelhakim Sefrioui, who is however even further removed from these facts. Despite the already shattered accusation of having « named the professor by name as a target », there must remain something of Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement which justifies his indictment and his pre-trial detention, in solitary confinement at that.

   This something must then, in an abstract and indeterminate way, consist of Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s very involvement. Yet a detailed review of his involvement, including his video, has already been provided. Rather, we have to ask the truly relevant question of whether Anzorov was radicalized and pushed into crime through this controversy and its various components, or whether he rather displayed the most macabre opportunism, using it as he could have used any press clipping, emanating from a journalist who would never have been questioned as Mr. Abdelhakim Sefrioui currently is.

   To this central question, several pieces of evidence plead in favor of asserting that several signals should have alerted the competent authorities to the ideology and radicalization of the terrorist Anzorov, a radicalization which operated well before the start of the controversy surrounding Mr. Paty’s course.

   Far from being undetectable as the authorities are suggesting, terrorist Anzorov had already been the subject of several reports for his posts on social networks. Several articles, including two very detailed ones from Médiapart[36][37], trace very precisely the chronology of Anzorov’s activity on the social network Twitter. More importantly, there are several reports, including some on the Pharos platform, directly managed by the Ministry of the Interior, where content is reported which is then directly analyzed and processed by the police and gendarmes assigned to this service.

   In addition to other reports made directly to Twitter, the first one of them made to Pharos dates back to July 30, 2020. Further reports would then follow. Furthermore, on August 30, Anzorov stood out once again with the publication of a disturbing photomontage featuring a man about to be beheaded. The image was an assemblage of a scene from a television show with the face of an unidentified man. Still later, on October 10, only six days before his attack, Anzorov sent a Twitter post that would then be flagged as well on Pharos[38]. Investigators are still working to identify this message following the deactivation of the terrorist’s account by Twitter.

   In addition, Wassim Nasr, journalist and analyst watchman specializing in jihadist movements makes the following observation: “We also know, because I was also able to consult his Twitter account, that he looked for other people’s addresses. This is important. From early October. With the will to act. A fanatic will to act. »[39]

   What is more, since at least mid-September[40], Anzorov had been in contact with at least two jihadists in Syria. He explicitly mentioned to them his willingness to fight. It is to one of these two contacts in Syria that Anzorov also shared the gruesome picture of his crime[41] with. It turns out that it is this Syria-based contact that subsequently widely disseminated the picture and its associated message. It was neither to Brahim C. nor to Abdelhakim Sefrioui that the terrorist sent proof of his barbaric crime.

   Likewise, the recent indictment on November 6 of three additional people corroborates the idea of upstream radicalization. The three people are accused of having exchanged messages over a messaging system with Anzorov which appear to refer to terrorist action[42].

   Apart from the question of the terrorist’s activity on social networks, the testimonies from his own family and those around him are quite clear on his journey that began long before the start of the controversy. They notably describe a withdrawal into one’s self that started several months prior[43]. During his press conference on October 21, prosecutor Ricard reported that the hearings of his friends in custody showed « a radicalization for several months, marked by a change in behavior and physical appearance, isolation, frequent attendance to the mosque and unequivocal remarks on jihad and the Islamic State. »[44] Likewise, the JDD argues that « the national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office has demonstrated that the process of radicalization of the killer began several months ago »[45], ie well ahead of the controversy over Mr. Paty’s course.

   We therefore have the assembly of several concrete facts, which lead to the implacable observation that if the authorities had taken the necessary measures, then the reports already made upstream, associated with the manifest desire expressed at the beginning of October by Anzorov to find a target, could have avoided this tragedy. Moreover, it is no coincidence that the government took the decision to strengthen the staff of the Pharos feature a few days after the tragedy[46], an implicit admission to the determining role that it should have played in the identification of the programmed killer that was Anzorov.

   Finally to conclude, it seems opportune to dwell on one element which is, to say the least, disturbing. This is a statement made by former minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, on the set of the CNEWS television channel, in the program Face à l’Info broadcast on October 16, the day of the tragedy, but actually recorded the day before, on October 15. During this program, and addressing Eric Zemmour, he said: « I think that in the bill being prepared by the President of the Republic against separatism, there are useful tools to ensure that in our country and in school, republican values and secularism are respected. And I think that Jean-Michel Blanquer’s approach, which consists in appointing secular referents, is bearing fruit. We see that there are reports that make it possible to fight on a daily basis a certain number of facts, insults, completely unbearable manifestations, such as for example the vocation of the beheading of such or such professor, or of anything that we see circulating » [47]

   One day before the events, what truly sounds like a prophecy raises questions. All the more so since Chevènement directly associates the threat with a report to which it may have been the subject. What exactly is this report? Why not have taken it seriously? It is surprising that in the context of the attack on Samuel Paty, no media has raised this point. There are only a few rare traces, notably in a post written by a certain Louis Daufresne which recounts the intrigue[48]. However, this fact made waves on social networks and caused a great stir. In any case, host Christine Kelly confirmed in person the dating of the former minister’s comments, confirming on Twitter to a person asking her on the matter that the show was taped on October 15.

Screenshot of Christine Kelly’s Twitter conversation with an internet user about the show’s recording date.

   In short, everything corroborates the fact that Anzorov was already radicalized well in advance of the controversy over Mr. Paty’s course. He was already looking for a victim before him and already had links with the terrorist movement. Thus, in no way can the involvement of Brahim C. and Abdelhakim Sefrioui be considered to have had a psychological influence on Anzorov by pushing him into violence and radicalization. Likewise, we cannot consider that he perceived this involvement as a call for illegal and terrorist action.

   As Le Parisien pointed out, the investigation rather reveals that in any event « Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Chechen radicalized for several months, opportunistically used this local affair to appease his jihadist impulses.[49] This local affair could just as easily have been disclosed precisely by Le Parisien, minus the militant bias. Brahim C.’s mistake in disclosing Mr. Paty’s name thus hardly seems to lend itself to being judged as a determining factor in the act of the terrorist Anzorov.

Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement in the controversy was quickly identified by intelligence services

   Why then, in light of all of the above, does Abdelhakim Sefrioui find himself in a situation of detention today? Laurent Nunez in person, the national coordinator of intelligence and fight against terrorism, declared in an interview with Francetvinfo published on October 18, that he was not the bearer of « direct threats that constitute threats of acts of violence that can be uttered, direct threats to take action against an individual » and which « fall under the law » and which « allow the police to intervene by deferencing the video and by arresting and placing the author of these videos in custody”. If this had been the case, he said, « the intelligence services would have taken his case to court. » [50]

   It is in the same spirit that another senior intelligence official, whose name has not been mentioned, speaks to say : « We did environmental work, screenings, and we saw Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s name appear [a figure of radical Islam], known for making agit-prop [agitation and propaganda], but nothing more”[51]. Described today as a dangerous radicalized person, this nevertheless proves that intelligence had always identified Abdelhakim Sefrioui as someone whose action is well identified and does not constitute a threat. This is why, once again in this case, the authorities did not intervene at any time against Abdelhakim Sefrioui, despite the five days that the availability of his video lasted on the internet, before Anzorov’s barbaric act.

   However, it is clear that at the end of the four days in police custody, on October 21, the judicial system nevertheless decided to bring the case of Abdelhakim Sefrioui to justice. This was in spite of the facts, in spite of the law and in spite of the judgment which visibly made the most sense to experts in intelligence and fight against terrorism, like Laurent Nunez.

   It is essential here to remember the note from the territorial intelligence of Yvelines quickly brought to light by Libération after the tragedy of October 16. It is also essential to recall here that as of October 12, it was raised to the highest level, at the DGSI. Thus, not only is Abdelhakim Sefrioui described as a radicalized file S, under close surveillance for several decades, but once again regarding this case, he was put under close surveillance. His intervention in the case, his accompaniment of Brahim C. during his meeting with school management, his video which was viewable for five days before the tragedy, all these elements were analyzed and monitored in real time and were subject to an assessment by the intelligence services. This assessment was such that no specific measure was deemed necessary by the authorities, whether it was to remove the video or to explain himself about it, or even, to have Professor Paty put under protection. This is for the simple reason that Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement in this case never breached the law.

   So, if this indictment decision for a count as heavy as complicity in terrorist assassination and pre-trial detention does not obey any of the aforementioned logic, what logic does it follow?

   It seems obvious that after four days of custody from the various suspects arrested, the political figures and senior officials concerned have reached the same conclusions we did in the detailed briefing we have just provided. The ultimate conclusion for them was that, Abdullakh Anzorov being dead, and the nation having been rightfully upset by his act of barbarism, there could only be two people to feed to the public. There were only two more people to present as the still alive and available culprit to shoulder the emotional burden of the people. One, physical, in the person of Abdelhakim Sefrioui, and the other, moral, in the person of all the instruments of the state and institutional apparatus that have failed in their mission to deal with the threat that came externally from the legal protest, a threat which was nonetheless multi-reported and which used that protest opportunistically. The recognition of this failure gets crystallized in the words of Alexandre Langlois, secretary general of the Vigi police union and territorial intelligence agent in the Yvelines, who says: « If this had been better coordinated between the services, we had all the cards so that [the Conflans attack] would not have happened. » He adds: « We did not do everything in our power »[52].

  Faced with this dilemma, the government and the judiciary logically and quickly made the choice. It seems that Abdelhakim Sefrioui is serving as the scapegoat in this matter. His lawyer, Antoine Alexiev said in this regard: “If we can publish or show cartoons of Mahomet in the name of freedom of expression, we also have the right to criticize them. This is what my client did, but he is paying the load of hatred he has accumulated against him for years. »[53]

  At the end of this presentation of the objective elements available to assess the question of Abdelhakim Sefrioui’s involvement in this case, we leave everybody free to draw the necessary conclusions on the question of his responsibility in the murder of Samuel Paty and his detention since October 21, 2020.

The threat weighing on the rule of law

   We will finally end with a short opening on the noted events and political consequences following the dramatic attack of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, after the spotlight was turned more largely on Abdelhakim Sefrioui than on the terrorist Anzorov. Indeed, the actions of the latter, explained at length in the foregoing, and the consequences that they have earned today, raise questions about the situation of our society and a certain number of current abuses which weigh heavily on the rule of law, threatening it.

   Freedom of expression, which is at the heart of all current discussions and to which attachment is claimed by all, seems nevertheless to be the object of a variable application, for which it is difficult in many cases to obtain a clear and legally founded justification. By going beyond the frontier of strict law and legal responsibility which we can legitimately oppose to individuals, our judicial system and the prevailing political discourse erect differentiated categories with obscure criteria, in which individuals are put, for somehow using the same freedom of expression and the same fundamental and civic rights. Some thus find themselves placed in the category of free thinkers, while others find themselves condemned de facto in the category of dangers to society, and must therefore be deprived of the exercise of freedoms.

   Moreover, and in the same vein, the necessary and legitimate fight against terrorism is taking a turn from which we can already see a certain number of perverse and counterproductive effects. By employing a large number of means against the wrong targets, it mechanically helps release the pressure on the real threats. The profiles of the perpetrators of the latest attacks show how far they are from what is currently targeted by the authorities in their fight against radicalization and the alleged offense of separatism. Faced with these abuses, and as a recent forum[54] has shown very clearly, the real bulwark against terrorism is more than ever law, and not the degradation of the rule of law.

   This degradation and the feeling of stigmatization it provokes within millions of French citizens who feel unfairly targeted, was recently a subject being brought to light in an Amnesty International press release, published on November 3 and titled : « France. The measures taken after the murder of Samuel Paty raise concerns about the respect for human rights. » [55].

   In the face of what appears to be an unfair and exceptional treatment, which now threatens citizenship itself, it is more than necessary that reactions be heard to condemn all of these abuses. It is indeed up to the state to protect society against the threat of terrorism and its consequences which affect it as a whole, without distinction of religion. It is also up to the state to guarantee all citizens without distinction, the lasting possibility of making free use of their civic rights, in particular those of expressing their opinion, of denouncing and of demonstrating. To blackmail with terrorism certain citizens and their legal commitment amounts to denying the role of the state and seriously stigmatizing a significant part of the national community.

Ali Omari

Original French version :